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UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. 



lONA 

A LAY OF ANCIENT GREECE 



lONA 



A LAY OF ANCIENT GREECE 



BY 



PAYNE ERSKINE 



ti 



{■ J!lM 11 '883 ;r)^ 



BOSTON 
CUPPLES AND HURD 

PUBLISHERS 
1888 



76 3 -^ 1 



Copyright, i888, 
By CUPPLES AND KURD. 



All rights reserved. 



PREFACE. 



It has been said of late, by some with a feeling of sadness and 
regret, that the poetic spirit has fled ; that the poetic temperament 
is submerged in the hurrying flood of new ideas of progress and 
needs of man and is cooled in the icy stream which flows from 
the fountain of scientific truth ; that all mystery is of the past, and 
that man, having subdued the forces of nature, and made them 
subservient to his will, finds them no longer mysterious ; that the 
whitened bones in the newly opened sepulchres reveal the truth that 
death is the end of life, while man grows like the grass in the fields, 
fulfils the purposes of his existence unknown to himself, and is as 
surely cut down by the stroke of time, to rise no more ; that nature 
no longer reveals to us a hidden Creator; and that the sighing 
winds, the moaning ocean, the rustling grasses, and shaking leaves, 
the pattering raindrops, and the babbling, restless brooks, need 
no longer thrill our beings with either joy or sadness, as these 
feelings are but sensations produced in our organic tissues, with 
the disintegration of which, ends all aspiration, all hope, all delight, 
all life ; that soul is but sense, and spirit but a figment of the 
imagination. 

It is the aim of this book to show the desire that exists in every 
human being, — unaided by the teachings of Christianity, — to live 

3 



4 PREFACE. 

on after this life is over ; the natural out-reaching of every human 
spirit toward the divine, calling for eternal life. The still sfnall 
voice floats upward, piercing the density of human wisdom, and is 
heard through all, and above all. 

It has been said by philosophers, that the faculty of intuition is 
the highest pertaining to man, and is that alone which lifts him 
above the lower orders of animals, and enables him to conceive of 
an Infinite Being, or to become cognizant of abstract truths. 

The author has endeavored in these pages to awaken and develop 
this supreme faculty, as well as to give pleasure through the exercise 
of the imagination, which is so closely allied to it ; and has placed 
the scenes and events of the narrative before the Christian era, in 
order to leave the thought unbiased by Christian teaching, admitting 
only the philosophy that may be gained from the works of Socrates 
and Plato, or by the true love of, and communion with nature ; 
and throughout the whole has adhered as closely as possible to the 
classic spirit and feeling, giving only the Greek names and significa- 
tions to the deities. 

THE AUTHOR. 



CONTENTS. 



PAGE 

CHARACTERS INTRODUCED 7 

PRELUDE II 

CANTO 1 23 

CANTO II. Lesta's Story 47 

CANTO III. loNA's Story 89 

CANTO IV. The Return 133 



PRELUDE. 



CHARACTERS INTRODUCED. 



Iris, the messenger of Hera, employed in beneficent offices toward mortals. 

Zeus, or Jupiter, the supreme deity. 

Hera, or Juno, queen of heaven, and protectress of the interests of women 

and of the sacredness of marriage. 
Artemis, or Diana, twin sister of Apollo. 
Heph^stus, or Vulcan, god of fire and of the forge. 
Aphrodite, or Venus, goddess of beauty, and wife of Hephaestus. 
Iona, a Grecian princess. 

DioPHANTUS, a shipwrecked poet, saved by Iona. 
Hyas, a shepherd. 
Lesta, daughter of Iris and Hyas. 
Ilerda, one of the maids of lona's household. 
Laestro, father of Ilerda. 
Nearchus, one of lona's counsellors. 
Danaus, suitor to Iona. * 

Astica, an old nurse in the household of lona's mother, and favorite servant. 
Leros, a philosopher, and the tutor of Iona. 
Hylax, GEagrus, and Edonus, lona's brothers. 



lONA. 



PRELUDE. 

Here, singing stream, will I repose and dream, 
Here, where thy liHes wave their glory-laden heads. 
The violets lift their faces from their mossy beds 
To feel the sun's warm kisses and be wooed by thee. 
Above thy waves doth bend the virgin yellow-bell; 
Like as a maiden hideth her heart's love, so she 
Doth screen herself full modestly and well, 
Drawing so close her leafy veil, that none may see, 

But only guess her loveliness. 
Naught stirreth now the echoes of this ferny dell 
Save thy soft murmuring voice, thou gentle rill. 
Thy voice is ever wayward, sweet, and low. 
Dost tell unto the bending flowers a tale of woe 
To charm the glittering dew-drops to their eyes, 
And make them rustle with a sad surprise? 
And dost in murmurings low thy story tell. 
That each fair face may bend, to hearken well, 



12 lONA. 

More near unto thine own, thou dreamy rill? 

My heart with joy would dance within my breast 

To know the many tales which thou dost tell. 

I fain would be a floweret with the rest, 

And learn of thee the songs which they love best. 

Can naught but flowers and fairies know thy tongue? 

They, and the nymphs that sport thy waves among? 

So light they dance upon thy bubbles, rill ! 

And they may laugh thy gentle murmuring still, 

And play for aye in thy clear depths, sweet stream, 

While in thy waves their shining hair doth gleam. 

And they may know each word which thou dost speak. 

While I, poor mortal, here upon the brink. 

Can naught but sit and gaze on thee, and think, 

And dream, and wonder at thy song 

Which thou art singing, singing, all the glad day long. 

Thus sadly sighing at my fate 

I lingered still. 

The flowers seemed beck'ning me to wait 
Beside the rill ; 

White iris flowers raised slender finger tips. 
And beckoned me. 

Nodded the butter-cups, and down where drips 

The spray from banks of moss, blue hare-bells smiled. 
And nodding, beckoned me. 



lONA. 13 

The reeds and water grasses rustled at my feet, 

And all the air was filled with summer odors sweet, 

All blue with opening violets, a fit retreat 

For slumbering Psyche while she slept and dreamed — 

The bank whereon I lay, aye, verily ! it seemed 

That still the impress of her lovely form might be 

Traced in the bended flowers and grasses where she lay, 

Sweet-sleeping, dreaming, fairer than the risen day ; 

Purer than lilies white, pearled with the morning dew — 

Till thence came softly stepping, slyly, peeping through 

The leafy screen, the Httle God of love, intent 

On mischief still, with arrow set, and lithe bow bent 

To send the winged dart 

To any luckless heart, 

He there might chance to meet. 

When lo ! this vision sweet 

Enthralled his wary feet. 

That he who sought to snare 

Others, all unaware 
Himself was caught in meshes of her golden hair, 
Which robed in light her wondrous loveliness. 
Himself ensnared in that fair net, his suit to press. 
Knelt in the grasses at her side, and left a kiss 
More light than lightest zephyr's breath, on her fair cheek. 

But when his love he would confess, 



14 ION A. 

She wakened in affright, 
And fled, a vision bright, 
Faster than morning hght 
Flashes o'er mountain's height ; 
Or ray of setting sun 
When golden day is done, 
From steep to steep, swift darting from our sight. 
Leaves the dull earth shrouded in gloom of night. 

There with the rustling of tlic grasses, soft and low. 
And with the sound of humming birds, and buzzing bees, 
And with the murmuring of waters, and the breeze 
Shaking o'erhead the leaves, soft, sweet, and slow, 
Came words unto mine ear, as uttered in the flow 
And ripple of the wavelets on the stones below. 
Came words more sweet and tender 
Than human tongue might render. 
And many tales of bygone days 
When Dian walked her wooded ways 
In all her queenly splendor. 
While maidens lithe and slender, 
With maiden grace attend her. 

Leading with leash of silver cord 
Her hounds, all ready at her word 
To bound away through forest glade. 
And start the deer from covert shade, 



lONA. 15 

Or send the timid hare swift panting to liis lair. 
So heard I how, at close of day, 
Persephone, — along the way 
Where shps the stream 'twixt banks of moss, — 
Came down, the flowering fields across, 
With light, free step, and joyous, lissome grace. 
Lingered the sun's last rays, to touch her face 
With rosy kisses, thus to woo no more 
That lovely vision by the wooded shore. 
Wild flowers, of odors faint and sweet, she wore 
Bound in the braids of her smooth, silken hair, 
Darker than shadows of the night. More fair 
Was she, than any flower which she might wear; 
Unconscious of her own bright loveliness. 
As birds in air of their own joyousness. 
While on untrammelled wing they sing and soar. 

She moved along where slow waves creep. 

And silent, snowy lilies sleep, 

To pluck of them, while one fair hand 

Held her Hght robe from wave and sand. 

She seemed afar, a faint, white gleam 

On the dark bosom of the stream, 

Until she turned, and sought once more 

For flowers along the reedy shore, 

Holding her light robe as before. 



l6 lONA. 

She plucked the scented iris bhie. 
Shaking the drops of evening dew, 
And gathered flowers of every hue, 
TrilHng the while a blithesome song. 
Beside her path-way trailed along 
Bearing their lamps, the glow-worms slow, 
White evening moths, a fluttering throng, 
§ped round her on soft, silent wings. 
All sought her to caress — all gentle things 
That love the opening flowers, and night, and dew. 
So strayed she on, when suddenly there grew 
Before her in the way, a flower more fair. 
More strange than any blossom growing there, 
Whose petals opening with pale opal glow. 
Seemed like a gleam of light from realms below. 
In her sweet innocence she stooped, and kissed, 
And plucked, and in her lovely bosom placed 
The harmful thing that wrought her sudden woe, 
The flower of fate, the charmed asphodel. 
In that same instant all the air grew still ; 
The green leaves trembled, and the laughing rill 
Hushed its glad song. The flowers drooped their heads 
And died of grief upon their mossy beds ; 

While from the depths of the still stream 
Rose at her side, like some ill-omened dream. 



ZONA. \J 

Two shadowy steeds, and in their sombre track 

A chariot ebon black, 

Wherein two beings stood, as born of shade. 

Who caught and bore away the sweet, white maid. 

Grown cold with sudden fear. 
Scarce from her lips had fled the gladsome song. 

Ere she for aye was gone. 
Yet still the echo of her voice is heard 
Fainter, more sweet, than any note of bird. 
Now far, now near, from towering tree to hill. 
Or hovering with the shadows round the rill. 
And still her mother's voice is heard afar 
Through woodland bowers where deepest shadows* are, 
Calling and sighing, as the wind the trees among, 
"Persephone! Persephone! why tarriest thou so long?" 

Thus from the stream whose words in ceaseless flow 

Came to mine ear, I heard of long ago 

Ere time was old. Yea, long, and long ago. 

When Gods came down, and walked the earth with men. 

And wrought with them heroic deeds, and when 

Bright nymphs, and naiads from the woods and streams. 

Met mortals in the shades, or came in dreams 

To make their slumbers glorious, and when 

Fair Goddesses from far off wondrous heights 



l8 lONA. 

Trailed through the air their clouds of rosy hue, 
To seek the haunts of man, and shed cool dew 
Upon the parched earth ; or speeding through 
The deep, wide waste of waters dark and blue. 
Their winged messengers they sent to guide 
Midst storms and dark, lost seamen through the tide. 
Thus spake the stream, — " An hundred hundred times 
Have these bright waters been caught up in clouds 
And floated round the high Olympian hill 
Where Gods have thrones, thence softly to distil 
In silent dews, or hide with leaden shrouds 
The heavy earth, or in bright showers to bring 
The blessings of the Gods upon the opening spring. 
Aye ! and Zeus' anger, when he stoops to rend 
With thunderbolts the earth, and downward send 
Dread fear into the hearts of men. 
An hundred times have these bright drops been shed 
O'er fields and moors and distant woods and hills 
To trickle down and run in countless rills 
Back to their rocky bed. 

There to sing on, and on 

In never ending song. 

And over yet, and over 



lONA. 19 



In ceaseless rhythmic story, 

The deeds of gods and men, 

Of life, and love, and glory. 

Aye ! and of waning breath, 
And sorrow lost in death." 



CANTO I. 



CANTO I. 

Thus, in reverberating murmurs low, 

The words half uttered in the rhythmic flow, 

As thought were fettered in sweet sounds to earth. 

And needed but the form of words to give it birth, 

Came to mine ear the tale of one whose woe 

Filled the drear night with weeping, long ago, 

Revealed in nature's music, like the low 

Vibrations of a wind-played harp whose strings 

Repeat in harmonies the sighs of breathing things, 

Filling the air with the soft sound of wings, 

Like some faint echo from the distant star-lit spheres 

Of that vast harmony which never mortal hears. 



A woman sat beside a stream, and wept 
In silent sorrow. Length'ning shadows crept 
And wrapped her round with a soft veil of gray; 
While, like a tired monarch, in the west 
The sun sank slowly down to glorious rest. 
Wearied with splendor, and the golden day 
Fled lightly after, trailing by the way 

23 



24 lOXA. 

Her tinted robes. Soon silent-footed night 

With brooding wings, covered the earth from sight, 

And hid the last faint smile of day with gloom. 

The woman with bowed head sat weeping still. 

While the night breezes at their own wild will 

Tossed her dark uncoiled hair, loosed from trim bands, 

And downward sweeping with a wayward grace 

Hiding her face. 
Down in the stream, and on her clasped hands. 
Bright tear-drops fell in silence ; and her eyes 
Burned dimly with the hidden fire that lies 
Deep in the soul, that findeth no relief 
From its dull burning, is not quenched with tears 
But smould'reth ever in the souls that love. 
Thus, through slow creeping hours, devoid of fears, — 
For those who grieve fear not, so they may weep, — 
She sat as carved in stone ; till wild above 
Her head, unsheltered, with resistless sweep, 
Broke in fierce tumult, high twixt earth and heaven 
With heavy thunder loud, a storm-cloud, driven 
By rushing angry winds, Zeus' mighty breath ; 
Thus rudely waking the calm slumbering night 
With fiery darts, and shafts of vengeful light 
Mid darkness blacker than the vaults of death. 
Then she arose, lifting her wan, cold face 
Toward the high heavens, as if slie there would trace 



lONA. 25 

The sorrow of her inmost soul with fire 
Drawn from the elements ; her bare white arms 
Outstretched, as if with magic art and charm 
She would lure on the spirit of the storm 
To never-ceasing fury, while she cried 
" Ah ! woe is me ! Oh ! heaviness of woe ! 
Grief smiteth me, nor know I whence to go. 
How is my life consumed ! Would I had died 
While yet I dreamed. Now am I hither borne 
Upon a sea of mine own tears, and shorn 

Of all save life. My own glad heart I gave, 
All that I am, all I might ever be, 
To one who turned away. Yea ! shriek and rave. 
Ye wild winds through the earth. Spare not, nor save. 
Tear up the forest trees, and drop them in the sea. 
And yet thou canst not rave as doth my heart in me. 

Oh ! cover me, ye heavy clouds. 
And wrap me round with your cold circling breath; 
Darkness on darkness piled, or shrouds on shrouds 
To hide my grief. Oh ! desolate as death ! 

lona crieth ; — Hear ! 
Arise, ye Storm-Gods, spirits of Zeus' wrath, 
And send on Diophantus whom I loved 

Your heaviest floods. 



26 ION A. 

And say to him, ' Behold the grief she hath, 

Whose love was thine ! ' and cry, ' Were these drops tears 

Shed from her eyes, 
Her weeping could they compass not j her sighs 
Are wafted with the breath of dying flowers 

To Hera's throne.' 
Hear ! thou great queen of heaven ! from thy fair skies 
Look down on me, and grant me strength to hate 

As thou canst hate : 
For yet within my soul where opened late 
Fair blossoms of his love, a tender thought 
Lingereth, and calleth, that I have no rest. 

But still would fain 
Reach out mine arms and call him back who wrought 
My heavy sorrow and my bitter pain. 
Who taught me love, and wakened my still soul 
From slumbering peace. Now as a hidden mole 
That gnaweth in the dark, within me lies 
Remembrance of him, and of those past hours. 
Hence would I gather up the last few flowers 
Of my dead love, trample them in the dust 
And leave the thorns wherewith they grew, to thrust 
And goad my laden spirit on to vengeance." 



lONA. 27 

Then with impetuous grief wasted and spent, 

She drooped like some sad flower that lacks the sun ; 

Nor lifted up her voice, nor wept, nor sent 

Her silent prayers toward Heaven, winged with sighs, 

But like despair enthroned in darkness sat, as one 

Within whose bosom even sorrow dies. 

So through the night, while still the heavy air 

Echoed with sound of warring elements, 

Wild beasts crept forth from hidden cave and lair, 

Yet turned from that charmed spot. 

And harmed the woman not. 

But blended their fierce cries 

With Nature's harmonies. 
Lured by the wildness, to their own wild nature kin. 
Thus to orchestral music, awful, vast. 
Yet ever full, harmonious and deep. 
Whether the note be faintest echo cast 
Upon the air, an infant's sigh in sleep, 
Or whether mountains tremble, and the sea 
Revolts that it hath bounds, still to the key 
Of one majestic thought doth nature move, 
In numbers rhythmical, sublime ; 
Touched by the hand of the Divine 
Are all her instruments, 
Her wild, discordant elements 



28 lONA. 

Attuned and measured to the chord of love. 
Yea ! Ever the immortal symphony rolls on. 

Thus sang the streamlet in its ceaseless song. 
" Nay, sing again of earth, sweet singing stream ; 
In wandering, thou hast wandered from the theme 
Wherein with pity thou hast stirred my soul ; 
Tell of the woman, I would know the whole 
Of her sad story ; pray thee, brought the morn 
No ray of gladness to her soul forlorn?" 
But though in haste I importuned, the stream must needs 
In its own way, slow slipping through the reeds 
And over mossy stones, reveal the wrong 
Zona wept. 



So sped the hours along, 
A silent, fleeting throng; 
The sullen clouds passed by. 
And all the eastern sky 
Flushed with the smile of day. 
In glorious, bright array, 
The glad earth waked to greet the sun, 
Smiling through tears, like jewels hung 
On every shaking spray. 
On every nodding flower 
That bloomed in leafy bower, 



lONA. 29 

Or decked the woodland path, 
As Zeus the arrows of his wrath, 
In pity, turned to sparkhng gems 
That in the sun would melt, and run 
Down all the quivering stems 
Of nature's growing things. 
Renewing life, and filling stream and springs 

With joyous overflow. 
Then, as if all earth's gladness 
Smote on her heart, and woke again her sadness, 
lona rose, and lifting up her eyes, 

Looked on the roseate skies. 
Looked on the swaying trees, 
And felt the merry breeze 
Kiss her pale cheek, as fleet 
It passed her by. 
Looked on the opening flowers 
And felt beneath her feet 

The growing grass. 
Almost she smiled. 
Yet drew her breath in with a tremulous sigh. 

As might a child 
Who hath been frighted in its sleep. 
And opens wide its eyes, and fain would weep, 
Although its terror is no longer nigh. 



30 ION A. 

Then spake she, "To what place 

Have now my heedless feet conveyed 
My heavy weighted heart? Upon my face 
I feel the warm, soft breath of winds of June ; 
I hear the sound of many buzzing wings 

Like music played 
By spirit-hands on silver gossamer strings, 
And every flower-bell rings 

A sweet sound forth ; in merry tune 
Sing many merry birds. 
Roaming the low, green hills, I see the herds 

Of fair Artemis' dappled deer 
Tempting the huntress forth with hound and horn. 
Are these the fields Elysian? Is lona born 

Into the land of spirits blest? 

Or doth she dream? 
If this be dreaming, may I never wake, 
Never return to that dull prison of my soul, 
Which I with tears flung by, a worthless thing. 
Thus let me ever dream, for the dear sake 
Of him I loved, and let me deem him true ; 
Or if I dream not, may the healing dew 
Of blest forgetfulness unto my spirit bring 
Sweet peace ; for surely this is that fair vale 

Where sinless mortals find release 

From sorrow, and weep not." 



lONA. 31 

Thus speaking she moved on a Httle space 
As one who walketh in a trance ; 

Her tearful up-turned face 
Alight with inward radiance, 
As troubled waters on a moonlit eve, 
Reflect a splendor more than they receive. 
Then as her wet and clinging robe restrained 
Her eager feet, she with swift downward glance 
Its blackness did perceive, 
Her sandals worn and stained 
With weary journeyings, 
And knew her grief remained. 
Herself the one dark blot 
In that bright sunlit spot. 
She lifted up her arms toward heaven and cried 
In bitterness, 
" Ye Gods ! Why mock ye me ? 
Have ye no shadows deep enough, to hide 

lona and her griefs?" 
Then fell upon the earth, and lay as she had died. 
There, out and in, and in and out, 
Sunlight and shadows danced about 
Over her heavy, sombre robe. 
Like death and pleasure 



32 lONA. 

In mystic measure, 

Dancing forever 

On this strange globe. 



While thus the stream its story was pursuing, 
The words were lost unto my mortal sense ; 
Only above my head I heard the cooing 
Of soft gray wood-doves, in their innocence ; 
Yet never ceased the stream its gentle singing, 
And still I listened on with half shut eyes. 
While from the far shore came the high shrill ringing 
Of katydids, and wayward wind-blown sighs 
Among the reeds and grasses passed me by. 
Until again in words the tale renewing, 
I heard how, as lona thus did lie 
Like one who hath repose past all undoing, 
A maid ethereal as the mists of morning, 
A maiden beautiful beyond adorning 
Rose from the stream, and moved to where she lay; 
Then kneeling at her side, shook from the tips 
Of her white fingers, cool, refreshing spray ; 
And bending over her, touched her pale lips, 
And in a voice like murmuring waters said 
" lona, rise ; lift up thy head 
And tell to me thy woe. 



lONA. , 33 

Last evening when the sun was low, 

I wandered through the meadows, 
And saw thee moving, bowed and slow. 

Among the deepest shadows, 
lona rise, lift up thy head ! 
Last night upon my quiet bed, 

I felt thy warm tears falling, 

I heard thy sighs, thy calling. 
And knew a mortal wept 
Above me, while I slept." 

Then did lona rise, and fix her weary eyes 
Upon the maid, and shivering like a leaf 
That feels a sudden breeze, thus spake ; 
"Who art thou? Why dost bid me wake? 

My spirit walketh as in death. 
And fain would I deny my body breath, 
That these mine eyes, on beauty such as thine 
Might never look ; even wert thou Divine, 
My heart unto my heart would say, 

I love thee not, would that thou wert away." 
Then said the maiden, " Nay, thou wrongest me. 
My name is Lesta, and I come to thee 

In sadness for thy sorrow; 

Bide with me till the morrow, 



34 lONA. 

And tell me why thou weepest, 

And nightly vigil keepest. 

Here by the margin of this stream, 

Have I a couch of softest down, 

Where thou mayest lie, and rest, and dream, 
Beneath yon mossy bank. 

Within a grotto cool, and clear, 
Where neither heat, nor vapors dank, 

Nor any noisome things appear, 

Nor troublous noises greet thine ear. 

I will restore thy fainting soul 
With wine of lilies mine own hands have made ; 

And why thou grievest, all thy dole 

And ^ woe, thou shalt reveal to me. 
Perchance within my grasp, I have the key 
Wherewith to unlock treasures of delight. 
And bring thee joys that shall dispel thy night 
Of sorrow, and bring back thy smile. 

lona, bide with me a while." 
Then reaching out her arm, lona's hand 
She took within her own, and from her eyes 
Shed such soft radiant beams, as would beguile 
Even dumb animals to love, and rise. 
And follow her. 

But her sweet, gentle pleading, 



lONA. 35 

lona heard unheeding, 

Yet followed at her leading 

Through utter weariness. 

Unwilling, unresisting, 

With lingering step, nor listening 
Nor hoping for redress. 
Thus Lesta led her on, through sun and shade, 
Beside the margin of the stream, and made 
The woodland path all glorious with the light 
That circled her, — her garments glistening bright 
With gems, like myriad water drops, each one 
Reflecting fairy hues, a mimic sun, — 
Until she came to that same mossy mound 
Where through the night lona weeping sat. 
Then turned, and took a narrow path that wound 
About the low green hillock to the stream. 
Where'er the maiden's light foot left the ground 
Flowers grew, each one encircled by a beam 
Of rosy light, and spangled bright with dew. 
Yet these lona saw not, neither knew 
Whither the maiden led her, till she stood 
Upon the water's edge. Then with a smile 
More sorrowful than tears, she turned her head 
And looked at Lesta, — beauteous, without guile 
And lovely as a rose-hued, morning cloud, — 



36 lONA. 

And said, — 

" Hast thou then waked me from that sleep 
Which leads to death, that these bright waves may keep 
My sorrow for me, and may be my shroud? 
Surely thou seemest kind even though fair. 
My laden soul would seek the silence deep, 
That Cometh with oblivion dark and drear. 

Lead on, I have no fear." 
But Lesta answered — " Nay, only for rest. 
And for thy soul's refreshment enter here." 
Then with a sudden motion swift and strong, 
She swept aside the willows lithe and long. 
That hid the entrance to Artemis' halls, 
• And led unto her bower. 
And through an archway curiously wrought 
She led lona down broad steps of stone 
Into a chamber beautiful and vast, 
A many pillared room, wherein was caught 
And multiplied each beam of light that shone 
Within. Yet here they loitered not, but passed 
Through many chambers, each than was the last. 

More beautiful. 
In some were tables, laden with repast 
Of choicest viands, temptingly displayed. 
In others many a soft couch was laid, 



lONA. 37 

Luxurious and enticing to repose. 

In these the light was tempered soft and gray, 

As when the day was drawing to its close ; 

And every lightest footfall on the marble floor, 

Made musical vibrations through the air; 

And every sound of voice, or whispered word, 

From room to room re-echoed evermore. 

In soft melodious measure, never heard 

By waking mortals, like unto a dream 

Of music, wafted from a distant shore, 

Wayward and sweet, as never human hand 

Might draw from human instrument in any land. 

Voiceless and faint, yet filling every sense. 

And leading to repose, and self-forgetful rest. 

Yet neither here did Lesta pause, but led her hence 

Into another chamber, cool and small. 

With low, arched roof, where sounds of waterfall. 

And gentle pattering of soft summer rain 

Among the leaves, and clamorous noise of brooks. 

Blended in soothing harmony of Hquid notes. 

While past the amber walls, and crystal roof. 

The silver stream was flowing. Warp and woof 

Of golden sunbeams softly filtered through 

The restless waves, and danced upon the floor 

With rushes strewn; while odors faint and rare. 



38 ION A. 

Filled with a dream of flowers the quiet air, — 
Of water lilies sleeping in the sun, 
Of stately iris flowers that one by one, 
Lift their fair heads, and smile, and pass away. 
Here she remained, and bade lona rest 
Upon a couch with down of thistles dressed; 
And brought fresh fruits, and amber wine of flowers, 
Her hands had pressed . 
From lilies pale, of healing powers 
And many virtues rare. 

And bade her taste ; 
And brought her silken robes. 
And bade her haste 
And put away 
The sombre dress that shadowed forth her grief. 

Then said lona, " Stay ! 
Because I had no heart to tell thee nay, 
Have I thus followed thee. 
Not that I hoped for aught. 
I tell thee that for me 
Joy may not be. 
The tears that I have wept, would fill my grave. 
What is there now in life that I would save? 
Only the tempest, that within me cries 
For vengeance. All else dies 



lONA. 39 

Before the famine in my soul. 
If thou with thy fair promises coi:^dst give 
One ray of hope that I might reach my goal 
And be revenged, then would I breathe and live; 
Then wear these shining robes, and plead with thee 
To teach me smiles and ways to charm the heart; 
Then would I sue the sun to shine on me, 
And kiss my cheek to redness, and would part 
With these black robes of sorrow. Yea ! with art 
Would I conceal my pain, and call upon the stream 
To teach me laughter, and the merry beam 

Each firefly carries 'neath its wing 
To light the dusky eve, within these eyes 
Whose brightness hath long since been washed away 

With tears, should shine with living light, 
If I might call Diophantus back and lay 
On him this burden I have borne ; the slight 
That he hath put upon me, and the scorn 
And obloquy ; if he might feel the thorn 
That pricks within my soul; 
If I might see him, covered with contempt, 
Lie in the dust, and drain the bitter bowl 
His hand hath filled for me, then would I wait, 
Nor seek for greater happiness than this. 
For who love deepest, can most deeply hate." 



40 lONA. 

Then Lesta spake again in gentle wise, 
" Nay ! nay ! lona, thou art wild with grief, 
And spent with weariness. Thy tears and sighs 
Avail thee naught, for sorrow is a thief 
That steals away the flowers of youth, ere time 
With swiftest stroke is ready for their fall. 
Patience ! lona, thou canst compass all 
With patience. He who cannot run may climb, 
And soonest reach the mountain's height ; 
While he who hastens, wearied, lags behind. 
I must away, this is the hour 
Artemis comes, in queenly power. 
With all her nymphs, and dryads bright, 
With many a stag, and many a hind, 
To bathe, and rest, till set of sun. 
Her must I serve. When day is done 
I will return. Then rest thee here, 
Refresh thyself with food, and let the cheer 
That Cometh with sweet slumber light thine eyes, 

To greet me when I come again." 
She vanished while she spake, nor did lona rise 
To follow her for lack of strength, but when 
The last faint echo of her footsteps died 
Away in music on the marble floor 
Without her bower, lona spake once more : 



lONA. 41 

"The maiden sayeth truly. Wise and kind 
Is she, and I will heed her words, for blind 
With sorrow, I unto the Gods have prayed 
To be revenged, yet have I sought for death. 
Oh ! woman that I am ! my feeble breath 
To spend in unavailing sighs ; afraid 
To meet my people's pity, and their scorn. 
What ! shall I weep and die ? 
Is this the fate whereunto I was born — 

To love, and like a worm to lie 

In dust beneath Diophantus' heel 

Because I loved him? I will live. 
Yea ! eat, and drink, and breathe, that he may feel 
The strength that lieth in a woman wronged." 
Then to the feast she turned, and ate and drank. 
The fruit and wine. Her tired body longed 
For rest, and on the fragrant couch she sank 

Into a slumber, calm, and deep. 
All through the day, 
In quiet, restful sleep, lona lay. 
And Lesta in the evening found her there 
Still sweetly sleeping, all her ebon hair 
Thrown back a tangled mass, her white throat bare, 
Her bosom heaving with her gentle breathing. 
And Lesta looked and smiled, 



42 ION A. 

And spake in accents tender, 

" Sleep on, thou sorrow's child. 
I fear the help I render 
Will only lead thee deeper 
In woe, unconscious sleeper. 

Why with untamed will 

Dost strive for vengeance still? 

Revenge is not so sweet 

As thou, with eager feet 

Still pressing to thy goal. 

Dost think, unwitting soul." 
As one who feels in sleep the presence at his side 
Of one who thinks on him, lona opened wide 
Her eyes, and looked in Lesta's face ; then sighed, 
And raised herself up on the couch, and said, 
" I have been far, far hence, midst pleasures fied, 
And joys long past. I fear me, I have overslept 
The hour thou bad'st me waken. Have the shadows crept 
Long through the woodland? Hides Apollo's car 
Beneath the western seas? My way lies far 
From here. I must depart. Lesta, farewell. 
And for the kindness thou hast shown 
Unto a stranger, weary, and alone, 
I, though a princess, can but give a beggar's thanks." 
But Lesta answered, speaking quickly, — " Nay ! 
Thou shalt remain with me. lona, stay. 



ION A. 43 

I pray thee stay, for thou hast much to tell. 

I have a willing ear. 

Why say farewell? 

Thou shalt have naught to fear, 

And much to comfort thee. 
Whence comest thou? and whither dost thou flee? 
W^hom dost thou love, and yet dost seem to hate? 
This Diophantus, — powerful and great 
Is he, or of a meaner sort?" 

While thus she spake 
lona turned on her with startled glance, 

And with the shake 
Of anger in her voice, cried, " Silence ! Maid ! 

I will no more of this. 

Must my poor heart be laid 
All bare for thy inspection? Must thy curious eyes 
Search every corner? startle with surprise 
Each hidden secret forth to cry ' For shame ! ' " 
But Lesta, all unmoved, and with the same 
Mild, serious look on her sweet restful face, 
Made soothing answer, *' Peace ! lona, peace ! 
I ask not to torment thee. Know'st thou not 
The wise physician needs must know the spot 
Most deeply hurt, must know the cause 
For which his patient suffers, or he cannot heal?" 
lona, her impetuous nature quick to feel 



44 lONA. 

Repentance, as to rise in anger, spake again ; 
" Forgive. The tongue that speaketh for a broken heart 
Must needs say bitter things. I would the smart 
Might pass with bitter words. Yet know thou still 
The wise physician doth not tear afresh 
The wounds that he would heal. For good or ill 
I know not, care not which (so that the task 
I have to do be done), I must depart." 
But Lesta still besought her, — "If I ask 
Too much of thee that thou shouldst tell the cause 
Of thy deep sorrow, then I pray thee pause 
And hear my tale ; for when thy tears shall fall 
In sorrow for another's woe, thine own 
Will be less heavy, and the blackening pall 
That hangeth over thee will pass away, 
And let into thy soul the light of day." 
lona thus constrained, again turned back 
And sat at Lesta's side, her heavy robe of black 
Close folded round her, and her hollow eyes 
Fixed with attentive look, in still surprise. 
On Lesta's face ; her features marble cold. 
Her clasped hands fallen in her lap, while Lesta told 
Her story, and the shadowed night 
Closed round them while she spake. 



CANTO II 



CANTO II. 

LESTA'S STORY. 

"My mother Iris, fair to look upon, 

From her high place in heaven by Hera's throne, 

Came down to earth one golden, summer morn, 

And wandered through a hill-girt, fertile vale, 
Most beautiful and green; 

Ere heaven's watchful starry eyes grew pale, 

Or in the east Apollo's car was seen. 

While shepherd lads still slept beside their flocks. 
And the quick, timid hare 
All undisturbed by fear 

Ate of the leaves that grew among the rocks, 
Or sported with her young, 
While every song-bird sung 

A hymn of praise, to greet the God of day. 

My mother Iris wandered on her way. 

Until she stood beside a sparkling spring, 
So pure, and crystal clear. 
The very stones seemed near, 

47 



48 I ON A. 

That lay far down upon its sandy floor; 

While every lovely form of growing thing, 

Each creeping tendril, and each drooping flower, — 

Which Gaea, Mother Earth, doth love withal 

To wear upon her bosom, — fair and tall 

Or lowly creeping over broken rocks, grew there 

Making a broidered garment, many hued and rare. 

With wandering wearied, my fair mother stayed 

To rest her there, her lovely form arrayed 

In iridescent robes of morning mist. 

Made glorious, . where the light of morn had kissed 

Their edges into folds of shimmering gold. 

And on the mossy bank lay down and slept. 

By drooping willows sheltered from the glare 

Of day ; when suddenly within their shade, 

A wondering shepherd stept. 
Of manly beauty rare, 
Who, bearing in his hand his shepherd's staff". 
Clad in the skins of wolves his hands had slain 
To save his tender flock, had come to quaff" 
The waters of the spring. Entranced, he stood ; 
Remain, he dared not ; yet his willing heart 
As with a chain 
Held him fast fettered there ; 
A moment awed, and dazed, he thought himself 



lONA. 49 

Still with his flocks asleep upon a bare 
Hillside, and this a vision of his dreams ; 

Yet never elf, 
Nor sprite, in nightly vision seemed 

One-half so fair. 
' Surely,' he thought, ' this wond'rous being bright, 
Hath been borne hither on the wings of night, 
From some celestial land to mortal sight 
Forbidden. See ! the trembling flowers bend near 
To feel her light breath sway them to and fro. 
The harebells kiss her feet ; — would I might so, 

Yet much I fear. 
If I but stoop to touch her shining robe 

With these rude lips, 
I waken her. How dare I linger here? 
Dull sleeper on the hills ! Tender of flocks ! 
Shepherd of low estate ! I will away, 

Nor longer stay. 
With bold admiring eyes thus to profane 
Her sacred presence.' Thus he spake ; yet fain 
Was he to loiter, as with backward glance 
He slowly passed beneath the willowy screen 
That hid her from his sight. Then in a trance 
Of wonderment and rapture, he a space 

Withdrew, nor ever turned his face. 



50 ION A. 

Nor looked away 
From gazing on the bower wherein she lay. 
His flocks unheeded, wandered where they list, 
Or strayed where dangers lurked. The young lambs missed 
Their gentle leader, and with piteous bleat 
Awoke the sleeping hills, while at his feet 
His staff lay idle, and the hollow reed 
Whereon it was his wont to blow sweet strains 
In joyous measure, answered only sighs 
To his soft breathing. To the noisy cranes 
Taking their airy flight across the skies. 

He lifted not his eyes. 
Nor ever took them from the bower, to note 
Whether their flying boded good or ill. 
The hours sped on while thus he watched, until 
The level sunbeams smote the western hill 
Veiling in shadows long the quiet dale. 
Then taking up his staff" he rose ; 

His tall form dark 
Against the glowing western skies. 
Stood forth in strength, stalwart and beautiful ; 
While on the bower entranced, still gazed his eyes, 
As they perceived the vision hid within. 

' How if the being bright hath fled 
Whither she came,' he said. 



ION A. 51 

*By mortal sight unseen? 
I will betake me thither, if perchance 
She sleepeth still, 
For one more stolen, fleeting glance 
To hush my heart withal ; 
For such fierce clamor is at war with peace ; 
Or, if she waketh, to her will 
I will submit myself. Fair Greece 
Hath lost her loveliness, and every hill 
That once was crowned with glory, seemeth dull 
Since my awakened eyes have looked on her, 
So wondrous fair. 
Hence, death at her command were sweet, 
And life without her, death.' 

The air 
Stirred softly, and the sun still shone 
Upon the western hills, when Iris woke. 
And leaning over the green bank whereon 
She rested, looked into the spring, and spake , 

In gentle accents, soft as dropping rain, 
' Ah ! how refreshing sweet hath been my rest ! 
How pure and clear these waters ! Of the best 
That Cometh unto mortals, I would fain 
Leave here some good and gracious boon, that all 
Who hither come unspotted, may receive 
My benison. 



52 lOXA. 

What holier good than love, 
May Gods to man bequeath? 
Hence will I weave 
Around this beauteous spot, a potent spell, 
That whoso looketh in this sparkling well, 
Loving, unloved, and sees therein the face 
Of whom he loveth, mirrored fair and clear 

Beside his own, the love shall trace 
He seeketh, in full measure given him. 
And -go rejoicing ; but if dim, 
And fast receding doth appear 
The pictured face, 
Then shall he know some base 
Desire lurks in his soul ; or that he there 
Some thought unholy harbors, which with care 

He must erase, 
Ere to himself he draw the joy of love.' 
Then from her neck she loosed a milk-white chain 

Of gleaming pearls, 
And in her two hands held them clasped above 
Her head, then cast them in the spring, 
And leaning over, watched how ring on ring. 
Concentric circles widened from their touch. 

Reflecting back each to her sight, 
A thousand pearls of scintillating light. 



lONA. 53 

Until the surface of the spring once more 

Became a perfect mirror as before ; 

While far, far down upon its pebbled floor, 

The circlet lay, each gem as clear and pure. 

As teardrops on a maiden's eyelash seen ; 

And while she gazed upon the trembling sheen 

Of light, behold ! her own face mirrored there ! 

She smiled. Who would not smile? so exquisitely fair 

That face ; when suddenly within there shone 

Another pictured face beside her own, 

Both strong, and clear, and beaming with the light 

Love lendeth to the eyes. 

How beautiful ! how bright 
That face appeared, and yet she knew full well. 
That she must yield her to the magic spell 

She had so late pronounced. 

Trembling she rose, and turned 

To see who thus could dare 

Invade her presence. There, 

Behold ! the shepherd stood. 
Silent, with staff in hand ; for, to declare 
Why thus he stood before her, could he not; 

Yet no heart ever sued 
More eloquently piteous and strong, 
Than through his eyes, his spoke to hers. The song 



54 lONA. 

Love singeth thrilled the air, and her soul heard, 

Albeit he spoke no word. 
How might this be? Goddess divine, so stirred 
By human presence ! Love hath even power 
To touch the Gods, yet reacheth creeping things. 
With one fair hand she held her flowing robe 
Close round her, as among its leaves a flower 
Hideth, hid she, thrusting the other forth. 

*Tell me what brings 
Thee here?' she cried, as she would hold him back. 
'Who art thou? Wherefore come? Is it for lack 
Of aught, thou seekest here?' 
He answered only, 'Thee.' 
My mother Iris spake again, 'No need 
Hast thou to tell thy name, or of thyself. 

Hyas, I know thee well. 
For often when dark clouds have veiled the earth, 

I've watched thee gently lead 
Thy little lambs to shelter on these hills. 
Yet, pray thee speak, and tell 
How darest thou come unsought before me here?' 

Love maketh bold. 
He took his eyes not from her while he spake. 
' I came unto this well at dawn to drink, 

And fair, behold ! 



lONA. 55 

I saw thee sleeping. What ! Dost think 
Fear dwelleth in that heart 
Wherein thou art? 
Silent, I left thee lest my presence here 
Might rudely break thy slumbers. To draw near 
And look into those eyes 
This morn so closely veiled, 
Methinks I would have scaled 
Olympus' crest, faced dangers, tortures, scorn. 

Yea ! death itself, and, worse than death, 
To be sent from thee, ne'er to see thee more. 
Behold ! I see thee now. My every breath 
Drinks in thy loveliness. My soul feedeth thereon. 
And if thou sendest me unto the farthest shore 
Of Greece, the light that from thine eyes on me hath shone 
This hour, so surely as night creepeth after day. 
Day after night, will lead me back to thee.' 
Then spake fair Iris once again. 
' Hyas, the way 
From thee to me. 
Is shorter than thou thinkest. Pray, 
Knowest thou whom thou lovest ? Who thou art ? ' 

He answered, ' Nay, 
I know thee not, nor need to know. 
But that thou art, maketh the pulsing flow 



$6 lONA. 

Of life within my veins move on less slow 
Than doth the whirlwind through the valley go 
Bending all things before it down to thee ; 
And for myself, or who I now may be, 
I know not nor can say. 
I knew but yesterday. 
Not hours, but years have passed away, 
Since first at early dawn 
So fair to look upon 
I saw thee sleeping here ; 
And now methinks I am no more 
What then I was. I stand 
New made to thy command. 
My heart doth bound more fierce to act thy will 

Than once, to do mine own.' 
My mother Iris, standing fair and still. 
Like to the stately flower that bears her name, 
Spake sofdy, ' Hyas, thou art not the same 
Thou wert at break of day. 
The purifying flame 
Of love, God -given, hath burned into thy soul 

Divinity. 
Henceforth though mortal, thou art half Divine, 
And I, half mortal through this love of thine, 
That bindeth me to thee, as with a chain 



lONA. 57 

No powers in Earth, or Heaven, may break in twain.' 

Thus tasted he the ambrosia of the Gods. 

The fire that never dieth filled his soul, 

And thrilled him with a rapture that was pain. 

The music of the spheres with thunderous roll. 

Burst on his new awakened sense, 
That he was fain 
To bow before her to the earth, weighed down 

With the immensity of joy. 

He heard, he saw, 
With new perception, vivid and intense, 
The universe ; and stretching on before, 
Unnumbered years, and, in unmeasured space, 
Eternal cycles of eternal worlds. 
While thus he bowed in silence awed, once more 
She spake, 'Thou seest how the life before, 
Un-ending, and thy youthful past, are one. 
The clouds that dimmed thy mortal sight are gone. 
The veil is lifted. Now, behold ! One band 
Of glorious light doth hold this lower land 
And that fair world from whence I came to thee, 
Within its circle bright, that both are one. 

The human soul 
Is bound to this by tender ties, though dole 

And wreck may be his share, 



58 lOXA. 

That he must weep and bear; 
Yet when he loveth aught that is Divine, 
With love both strong, and pure, 
And steadfast to endure, 
Straight is he hfted up, and past the Hne 
That narrowly bounds human thought, doth see 
The glories, and the joys, unbounded, free. 
Of that far land beyond the vale of sleep ; 

And now, behold ! thou art 

Of that, thyself a part, 
As I of this, where mortals lie and weep, 
And know not life, and dream that sleep is death.' 
Then Hyas rose, and looked into her eyes, 
His own, bright beaming with a radiant light, 
Not of the earth, but brought from paradise ; 
And to beseech her never from his sight 
To flee, broke forth in words. — ' Fear fills my heart, 
And trembling holds me, lest thou shouldst depart. 
Making these glories all as naught to me. 
Why look beyond, since Heaven is where thou art? 
Since joy unutterable, bliss supreme 
Live in my spirit when I look on thee? 

Forever would I dream 

Like this, yea, when I hear 
Thy voice, so sweetly tuned to mine ear 



lONA. 59 

In words most musical, 

Methinks thou dost not seem 

To be, but art most real. 
Oh ! thou bright Goddess ! Tell me, do I wake 
And look on thee in very truth? Forsake 
Not him whom thou hast made to live ; 
For once I knew not joy, not knowing thee ; 
Yet neither knew I sorrow. Thou dost give 
Me both. Nay ! Nay ! Without thee, I hve not. 
But grieving, die.' She answered him, — ' Not so. 
Did I not tell thee death is not? but woe 
And darkness compass mortals round 

That questionings and fears 
Possess them, and they know not whither leads 
The waking of that sleeping ye call death ; 
Hence gladness is your portion, and not tears. 
Know thou, that I am thine. Look where appears 
Artemis' car, riding the eastern skies. 
I go, but for a time. At early dawn 
I will be here to greet thee as thine own ; ' 
And as her words were ended, she was gone. 
Then Hyas threw himself upon the earth 
And wept, and said within himself, ' No more 
This glorious vision. Joy is fled, and dearth 
And barrenness of hope alone are mine. 



6o lONA. 

A dream, a cloud, whereon the hght did shine, 
That seemed a golden car, yet for its freight 
Was laden down with tears. Alas ! what weight 
Of woe is this ! O, blessedness of hope ! 
O aspiration ! Thou soul of my soul ! 
Return ! return ! What saidest thou ? Divine ? 

In truth then were I God, 
Without thee would I weep and die. Such dole 
Knew never God nor man.' Thus on the sod 
His tears still fell. He wept as thou didst weep, 
lona, all the long night through ; nor sleep 
Knew he, to bring him dreams anew, 

With sweet return of joy ; 
But never yet was night that knew no dawn. 
With morn he rose, and lo ! a gentle fawn 
' Stood near the spring, and cropped the dewy grass. 
While at its side there stood a shepherd lass. 
Who held it with a silken tether bound ; 
But when the maiden turned to look on him. 
His heart leaped up, and ere he heard the sound 
Of her sweet voice, he caught her in his arms 
And covered her fair face with kisses swift. 
The timid fawn sprang back with vague alarms, 
And Hyas cried — ' Speak ! for thy voice doth lift 
My soul to meet thee midway on the path 



lOJSfA. 6l 

'Twixt Earth and Heaven, thou music of my dream.' 
Then answered Iris, 

'■ Ah ! thou foohsh boy ! 
I see that thou hast wept. Tell me, doth joy 
Bring redness of the eyes, and features pale? 

Or didst thou weep and mourn, 
Because I said to thee I will return ? ' 
And Hyas answered, ' Mock me not, I pray. 
I mourned for thee, because thou wert away. 
And more, for that I feared me thou wert not, 
But some bright vision that had fled for aye. 

Now thou again art here, 

How glorious doth appear 

The perfect, new born day? 

Now to each song bird's lay. 

My heart right merrily 

Answers in roundelay. 

More joyous than their own. 

Sing on ! sing on ! sing on ! 

Until the stars shall hear. 
And take my gladsome strain to be 
Part of their own vast harmony.' " 

Here Lesta paused, as though the tale were done, 



62 ION A. 

While in the dusky hght her soft eyes shone 

Like dream-stars in a mist, 
lona, gazing at her through the gloom, 
Knew not if there were gleaming tears, nor wist 
What sorrow trembled through the room 
With Lesta's voice, but leaning toward her, kissed 
The maiden's cheek. Yet was the tender act 
At variance with the words she spake, " What, maid ! 
Dost keep me at thy side to tell me tales 

Of other beings' joy? 

What is thy shepherd boy, 
Piping his songs of love through hills and vales, 
To me? Forever in my spirit wails 
A voice of woe that never will be still. 
At which thy gladsome story mocks at will. 
Like laughing sunbeams, dancing o'er a grave." 
But Lesta answered, 

" Nay ; I pray thee save 
Thy chiding till my story shall be done. 
Hear all. Yet am I fain to loiter on. 
Telling how all their happy days were spent; 
Of all the words they spake ; how Hyas wooed 
With such a tender wooing; how he sued 
And sought her love albeit he knew 'twas his, 
For very joy of suing ; how they made 



lONA. 6l 

Their home beside the spring, beneath the shade 

Of drooping willows, and what perfect bhss 

The flying hours brought to them as they passed ; 

How Hyas gathered in once more his flock, 

And tended them with joy, while to unlock 

The prisoned echoes of the hills, his reed 

He blew, and set them wandering to the lead 

Of his blithe, dancing measures, telling forth 

His secret to the winds. From south to north, 

Through hills and vales, the winged notes flew wild, 

Bearing with joy to every listening child. 

Or man, or maid, or merry singing bird. 

Yea, every soul or beating heart that heard, 

This burden sweet : ' The joy ! the joy of love ! 

And oh ! the joy of love ! ' 
That all on earth or in the sky above 
Knew that sweet cry within them, yet knew not 

From whence to them it came. 
Thus passed in merry round, each day the same, 
Yet new, with gladness of its own. At last 
In Hyas' arms there lay a little child. 
Pure as a white flower brought them from the skies, 
Who looked into the father's eyes and smiled 
A strange and happy smile, as if she bore 
A gladness in her spirit, from some shore 



64 ION A. 

Unknown to man. Then was his joy complete. 
He who hath never known 
The sound of childish feet 
Pattering beside his own, 
Nor held within his arm 
Secure from hurt, or harm, 
A child, nor felt the charm 
That lingereth with the touch of baby hands, 
Knows not the round, completest, full delight 

To man bequeathed. He stands 
Apart, and by himself alone, 
Because he hath no lot nor share 
In that deep feeling which makes all men one, 
From humblest peasant, slave or serf. 
To king upon his throne. 
While thus on earth, in joy and sweet content 
Iris and Hyas dwelt, and ever spent 
The days in bringing gladness each to each. 
The child increased in loveliness, and grew 
Each day more fair, till every wind that blew 
Told of her beauty to the swaying trees. 
The willow bending low beside their door 
In tremulous sighs made answer to the breeze, 
' Most wondrous fair.' The wingbd Hours that flew 
In swiftest haste, took up the words anew 



lONA. 65 

And whispered to each other as they passed, 
' Yea ! fair, most passing fair, beyond the ken 
Of Gods or men.' 
The merry birds at last 
Took up the strain, and sang so loud and clear 
That Hera on her throne stooped low to hear 

Their song, ' Behold ! how fair 

How wondrous, passing fair ! 
Beyond the ken of Gods or men.' 
Then Hera, frowning, turned to Zeus, her Lord, 
And cried, — ' Hear'st thou these words ? know'st aught of this ? ' 
He answered, ' Nay, not more than thou, I wis.' 

And looking on her, smiled. 
Then was she angered, ' I will see the child.' 
And straight she called the Hours, and asked, ^ These words. 
Declare whence come they? even singing birds 

Cry out in song, " How fair." ' 
Then spake the Hours, *We have been everywhere 
On earth, and throughout all thy vast domain. 
But one we saw who might with thee compare. 
And she, O Queen ! was but a little child — 
But fair, most wondrous fair, 
Beyond the ken of Gods or men.' 
Then was the Queen for this more wroth, and cried, 
' Go back, and find for me where doth abide 



66 lONA. 

This wonder ; ' but they answered, ' 'Tis decreed, 
O Queen ! that wheresoe'er on earth we speed, 
We must with haste away, nor ever pause, 
Nor ever may return. These are the laws 
Eternal, fixed, O Queen ! by Zeus thy Lord.' 
To her attendant throng then spake she : — 

'Rest 
Ye not. Call Iris hither. I will send 
Her forth to seek the maid. . To my behest 

With haste attend.' 
While thus bright Hera, queen of Heaven, frowned. 
And bent her angry brows on all around, 
In joyous innocence, the little maid 
Beside the spring with merry laughter played, 
Or looked within, to see the shining pearls 
That lay, a glistening circlet in the sand ; 
Or in the stream that wound through meadow land, 
Twixt green banks starred with golden buttercups, 
Pattered bare feet, nor knew that she was fair — 
A white flower, rosy hearted, and most rare. 

And fair to see ; 
Since she had never looked on frowns or tears. 
Nor seen the human face with anxious fears. 
Or passions fierce of hate or malice cold, 
To ugliness distorted from that mould 



lONA. 67 

Which fashioned it Divine; 
Nor looked upon a face less beautiful 
Than her fair mother's; nor had ever known 
A glance less full of tenderness, and love, 
Than Hyas' when he looked in Iris' eyes, 

Or in her own; 
Nor heard a sound more woeful, than the sighs 
That shivered through the willow at their door, 

When night winds blew. 

The merry birds that soar. 
The fresh flowers in the dew. 
The frisking lambs, and even creeping things 
Among the grass, the drowsy buzzing bees. 
And butterflies on dancing, golden wings. 
Yea, every creature loved the little maid. 
The bright waves of the stream round her small feet. 
Curling and lingering, kissed her ankles bare. 
Then over mossy stones, with laughter sweet 
Forever babbling ' Fair ! most wondrous fair ! ' 
They hasted to the sea, and hid themselves 
Within the bosom of the ocean deep. 
And told their secret there. 

" Far down beneath the ocean wave, 
Within a shaded crystal cave. 

Fair Aphrodite lay. 



68 lONA. 

And near her wrought Hephaestus, — slave 
Unto great Zeus, yet God, — with mighty stroke 
Shaking the many caverns of the deep 
With thunderous noise ; while ever as he wrought, 
He looked on Aphrodite, as asleep 
She lay, tranquil, and beautiful, nor woke 
Nor even moved the fringed lids 

That hid from him her eyes 
When with loud ringing clamor, 
He swung his mighty hammer. 
And fashioned bolts for Zeus to cleave the skies. 
Ah ! happy was her dreaming. 
The merry firelight streaming. 
Revealed her sweet lips smiling, 
Hephaestus' heart beguiling; 
While from his anvil glowing 
The ruddy light was flowing. 
And all the crystal -hearted cave, 
Reflected lights of ruby hue. 
And gleaming gold, and ocean's blue, 

Beneath the ocean wave : 
While ever as his hammer flew. 
With steady stroke both strong, and true. 
The glancing sparks sprang forth anew, 
Like showers of meteors in the sky, 



lONA. 69 

Or sprites, brought forth to flash and die. 

His shaggy face, and deep-set eye 

Upon his labor bent 
With earnest look intent; 

And ever and anon, a glance 

Of tenderness, yet half askance. 

He stole at his fair, heavenly bride ; 

Who, in a deep, receding arch. 

Upon a crimson, silken couch. 

Lay dreaming, smiling. Once she sighed. 

And suddenly a little frown 
Stole o'er her face and drove away the smile, 
Hephaestus' eyes still watching her the while. 
Her silken hair unto her feet swept down 
And hid her like a curtain of bright gold. 
Rippling and shining, all her lovely mould 

In mystery concealing. 

But one white arm revealing. 
And half her face. 

Hephaestus saw the fleeting frown 
Her smile displace, 

And straight he flung his hammer down 

And at her side spake tenderly, 
'What aileth thee? 
Sweet one, dream of my heart, tell me what dream 



70 lONA. 

Troublous and fretting in thy sleep doth seem 

Reality?' 
She woke, half rose, and half reclining, spake 
With glance both timid and imperious, ' Shake 
The dust and ashes from thy beard and hair, 
Hephaestus mine ; look thou, how dost thou dare 
• Come hither in such plight? 
Thou heavy, toilsome wight ! 
Now if thou lovest me, 

Why work so long and late? 
Here take thy place beside me and remain. 

Great Zeus on thee must wait, 
Nor ask too large a gain 
From thy laborious hand.' 
But even while she spake, the frown returned, 
And thrusting forth her hand, as if she spurned 
With petulant gesture some distasteful thought. 
Cried, ' Still that silly whisper in mine ear ! 
Hephaestus, stoop to me, put thy face near 
To mine, now tell me, dost in murmurs, hear 
Aught spoken, or a lightly whispered word ? ' 
He answered, ' Nay, sweet wife, I only heard 
The music of thy breathing. Sleep once more. 
Thou art half dreaming still, and I will wake 
Such clamorous noises, as shall cowering make 



lONA. yi 

Thy troublous voices seek the farthest shore 

Of Styx.' 'Nay! nay! Hephaestus. Thou art dull — 

'Tis not the sound that frets me, but the words 

Whereof the meaning maketh my heart sick. 

'Tis like the merry songs of numerous birds 

Heard from afar, or as the air were thick 

With buzzing, gauzy wings, the babbling noise 

Of running brooks, or of the wandering breeze 

Sighing through willow trees. 

Or shaking aspen leaves. 

Far through the ocean wave 

These sounds are borne 

And in this hollow cave 
Blended in one ; 
And still the burden that they bear 
Comes to me, " Fair ! most wondrous fair 1 
Beyond the ken of Gods or men." 

Hephaestus, what doth mean 
These words?' Then with huge laughter answered he. 
" Now wherefore frown, when all are praising thee ? 
When voiceful Nature and the listening Air 
When Earth and Heaven, give incense sweet and rare, 
When all mankind, with homage due and prayer 
Bow down before thee, owning thee most fair?" 
* Nay ! nay ! ' she cried. ' 'Tis not of me they speak. 



72 lONA. 

Am I not known? Did not I hither bear 
The gold-ripe fruit of those far gardens where 
Hesperia watcheth the declining sun? 

Thou knowest how 'twas won, 
And what was writ thereon, — 
"To the most fair." How then, 
Shall I be called " most fair beyond the ken 

Of either Gods or men"? 
My heart forebodes, another in some land 
Is found, to lift up an usurping hand 
Unto this crown, which I alone may wear, 
And henceforth walk before me, called " most fair." ' 
Hephaestus answered, ' Peace ! mourn not, sweet wife, 
For whoso flouts at thee, shall with his life 
Most dearly buy his words. Who can withstand 
Hephaestus, wielding with his mighty hand? 
Look ! fair one, cannot he who fashions forth 
Those weapons dire, wherewith great Zeus can smite 
Rebellious giants from Olympus' height. 
Cannot he, whose right hand hath forged the chain 
Wherewith Prometheus lieth bound secure, 
Defend thy loveliness from slanderous stain? 
For whoso moves malicious tongue, to cry 
Another, lovelier than thou, shall die.' 
' Yea ! thou art strong, Hephaestus, thou art strong. 



lONA. 73 

Yet with thy mighty hand, canst smite a song, 

Still the vibrations of the air, or crush 

A whispered word? The swift impetuous rush 

Of mighty men contending, may not stand 

Before thy weapons, or thy smiting hand, 

Yet is a whisper mightier than thou. 

The power that lieth in a woman's thought. 

Nay, but a sidelong glance, that meaneth spite, 

Thou canst not fathom, and thy giant's chains 

'Gainst these avail no more to bind, than might 

A silken thread blown by a maiden's breath. 

Yea ! once the word is sped 

For aye it goeth forth ; 

Nor threatenings of death, 
Nor death itself, nor callings from the dead 
Can hush in silence what hath once been said ; 
Hence to this task must I 
With haste myself apply, 
Search earth and Heaven, and find who thus doth dare 
Arise before me, to be called " most fair." 
Her punishment to other hand than mine 
Must not be left, nor yet to clumsier wit. 
Straight to devise some subtlety of woe 
To hold her face to earth. Frown not ; I go 
To seek this wonder. May thy task speed well 
Ere I return. Farewell ! ' 



74 I ON A. 

While thus in sudden haste, with anger wroth, 

Fair Aphrodite called her shining train. 

And hastened forth unto the throne of Zeus, 

The messengers of Hera, all in vain 

Searched earth and Heaven, and all the vast domain 

Of Gods and men, throughout the sea and air, 

Through golden sunset clouds, and weeping skies. 

Yet found they not sweet Iris anywhere, 

But back to Hera hastened to declare 

The end of all their labors. '■ Nay ! not there ! 

Not there ! ' From every whither sound their cries, 

* Not there ! ' When even while they spake, behold ! 

Before them, beautiful, but pale and cold 

With anger, Aphrodite stood. Her glance 

In scorn on Hera turned, before the throne 

Of Zeus she bowed herself, then spake. ' Perchance 

! mighty one ! thou knowest why alone 

1 leave my lord to slave at thy behest. 
While I appear before thee, to request 

That thou wilt hear the grievance I have borne. 

Full well thou knowest how within thy courts 

Before thyself and all the vast array 

Of mighty Gods, and fair Divinity, 

I have been judged most fair, and how to me 

The golden pledge was given, whereon the words 



lONA. 75 

Inscribed, "To the most fair" should henceforth be 

A token that alone, supreme, I stand 

In beauty. Nay ! flout not, O Queen ! I plead 

Thy cause as well as mine. Thou sayest indeed 

The wife of Zeus is lovelier than I. 

I care not, since the pledge is mine, but cry 

Thy patience while I speak. Though little love 

Is spent between us, now doth it behoove 

That we unite to plead before thy lord. 

Our common cause. 
Winds passing sigh, brooks babble, and birds sing, 
And every leaf that rustles whispers it, 
" Behold how fair ! " Upon my ear doth ring 
These sounds, " Most wondrous fair, beyond the ken 
Of Gods or men," creating discord vile 
Within me. Hear ! Thou Zeus ! Most mighty one. 
Spare me this torment. Place within my hand 
The punishment of whoso dares to stand 
Adored of all, before me or thy Queen, 
— To whom supremacy doth still belong. 
Being thy Queen.' — 
While Aphrodite spake, a moving throng 
Of bright, light-robed immortals, on the verge 
Of Heaven's vast expanse appeared, the throne 
With haste approaching, while as if to urge 



76 lONA. 

More speed, light-footed maidens ran before 
Like winged arrows, swift and sure of aim. 
Each bearing bow and spear; and after them 
Within a silver car riding with haste, 
By maids attended, pale Artemis came. 
The hosts of Heaven divided that her train 
Might pass ; but she looked neither left nor right, 
Until before the throne she did alight; 
Turning to Hera then she spake. 

*0 Queen! 
I have been told thy messengers have been 
Through earth and heaven searching, but in vain, 
For Iris, she who dwelleth in the plain 
Of Elis even now, with hills girt round ; 
Wedded unto an humble shepherd swain. 
Within a sheltered cot she may be found, 
Serene and blissful in her lowly state ; 
For there last eve I saw her wander late 
With Hyas, shepherd of the hills. Near by 
Their simple home, a crystal spring wells forth. 
From out huge moss-grown rocks, and over all 
Droopeth a willow, sweeping to the earth. 
That screeneth them in whispering solitude. 
Thus doth she mock, O Queen ! thy regal state, 
Preferring thus an humble earth-born mate, 



lONA. 77 

To consort of thy choosing. A dull clod, 
By earth-born passions fettered to the earth, 
Whereto his body base, to feed the sod 
Whereon he walketh, must full soon return. 

For this forsooth, she bideth humbly there, 

"i 

Kneadeth his bread, and tenderly doth care 
For weakling lambs he bringeth from the fold. 

And eke for him. Behold 
Much clamor hath been raised within thy courts, 
And dull dismay, wide-eyed, holds revel here, 
Mocking thy majesty with groundless fear, 
And why, O Queen? Because a little child 
Laughs on their hearth, or dabbles her bare feet 
Within the spring, or patters by the stream 
Playing with buttercups, or with the fleet 
Young lambs, that frisk and gambol in the vale ; 
Who hath in her such mystic beauty rare. 
That many-tongued Nature crieth out 
In rapture, as she were some beauteous flower. 
Ne'er seen on earth before, most strangely fair, 
Which Gaea from her bosom doth unfold, 
To dream and smile, and with her smile to hold 
Both Earth and Heaven in thraldom to her will; 
Yet is this outcry needless here, for still 
The maid is but a child, and well I ween 



^S I ON A. 

Knows not the joy of homage, nor hath seen 
'Any of hideous shape, grotesque or mean, 
Whereby she may them with herself compare, 
. To know herself most exquisitely fair.' 
Ere she had ceased, spake Zeus, with thunderous voice, 
And words inexorable, nor gave he choice 
Of penalties. ' Let Iris straight be called 
To take again the place she doth disdain. 
The child shall in Artemis' halls remain, 
Her slave to be ; 

Secluded from the sight of all 

Save maidens of her own degree, 
And sorrowing mortal women, who may chance 
To stray within the precincts of her bower : 
Being half mortal, shall she have the power 
To suffer with them, bearing thus the woes 
Of human kind, — which strike with deeper throes 
Into the hearts of women than of men, — 

Within her soul ; 
And being half Divine, she shall have power, — 
If so she list, — to help and succor them. 
Let this be her Divine inheritance.' 

" He ceased, and at his words well pleased, there rose 
A murmur of assent. Still near the throne 



ION A. 79 

Fair Aphrodite stood with troubled face, 
Nor lifted she her voice till all were gone, 
Then tremulously spake. 

'■ Great Zeus ! Thy grace 
I crave to hear me to the end. 'Tis well 
As thou hast said, that she be hid from men. 
Her beauty is not all the potent spell 
She hath wherewith to lure away their hearts 
From giving true allegiance unto us. 
It is the spirit of humanity 
Which dwelleth in her bosom, and doth sway, 
— Being thus blended with Divinity, — 
All hearts to love ; and if such power be hers 
To hold now in the early morning gloom 
Of childhood, that all nature shouts, for joy, 
In the full fragrance of maturer bloom 
Who can withstand her charms? Like mountain heights 
Most glorious, most beautiful, most fair, 
And lifted up into the wondrous lights 
That emanate from thee, so far removed 
From all that earthly is, or gross, yet cold 
With snows upon their bosoms all the year, 
Like these are we, and mankind turn with fear, 
More than with love, to pay their homage here ; 
Hence will our altar fires full soon burn low, 



80 I ox A. 

If ever thou compassionate shouldst grow, 

And raise this maid into thy courts above. 

This boon which thou alone canst grant, I crave, 

That she may be for aye Artemis' slave. 

Unseen, unknown, unloved, of Gods or men ; 

That she may never taste Olympian joys. 

Nor take her place among the shining train • 

About thy throne, to be adored with noise 

Of joyous tumult, as are we on earth, 

With harps, and clanging cymbals, and with flowers, 

And many-torched processions, white-robed maids, 

And stalwart men leading the sacrifice 

All garlanded unto our altars, — hours 

Most precious to the Gods. Deny her these 

And I will be content.' 

" Then answered Zeus, 
* Nay ! daughter. Thou art difficult to please. 
Why thus beset the maid? Wert thou not raised 
From out the sea to teach men love? Why then 
So filled with hatred? Thou art ever praised 
For loveliness supreme, be then content.' 
'To teach men love? Yea, surely I was sent 
For this, and more, to be adored of men ; 
But now, like as a serpent holdeth birds 
In thrall, lo ! hither cometh one so fair 



lONA. 8l 

That whoso looketh on her standeth dumb, 

Trembling to do her honor. Must I then 

Bow humbly down before her, who doth come 

To take that from me which is mine, by thee 

Bestowed, by hosts of Heaven and voice of men, 

Making the end of my existence void. 

And but a mockery? I tell thee, nay. 

I will not yield my place to any. Say 

But this and I will be content; that she 

Shall never be uplifted till she be 

Despoiled of that Divine exterior 

Which hideth her humanity from Gods, 

And maketh man adore her as Divine ; 

Until some woman from the human throng 

On earth, shall of her will, unasked resign 

Her spirit unto death, that she may wear 

This yoke which holdeth down the maid, — her fair 

Exterior, her smile, her form, her hair. 

Her glorious eyes, yea ! all she hath whereby 

She now is called " most fair beyond the ken 

Of Gods or men : " 
But let whoever mortal thus shall dare 
Covet this loveliness Divine, beware. 
Nor lay too rash a hand upon the prize. 
For whoso would usurp Divinity 

Forever dies,' 



82 lONA. 

" Then answered Zeus, ' Yea ! Thou may'st have thy will. 

I know thee, that thou never wilt be still 

Nor cease thy supplication here, until 

All thy demands are granted. Go appeased.' 

Then Aphrodite turned away well pleased 

And sought again the earth, nor rested she 

Till all was done, and her last wish obeyed.'* 

Here Lesta for an instant paused, then spake 
Once more with tremulous voice. 

" Behold the maid 
Who thus hath no inheritance save woe ! 
My father Hyas, parted from his love 
Grew sad and weary, weeping day and night 
For Iris. Now lona, thou dost know 
How others weep for love as well as thou. 
No more he blew melodious delight 
From out his reed, to warble through the skies 
His rapturous love, nor ever passed his door 
Where she was not, but sat with longing eyes 
Fixed on the spring, and waited for her there 
Where first he saw her, till his beard grew long 
And floated on its surface, and his hair 
Grew down, and crept upon the mossy mound . 
Like threads of hoary moss ; while ever round 



lONA. 83 

Him, grieving thus, birds sang, — he heard them not, — 
By Iris sent to feed him day by day. 
Until at last, Hera in Heaven grew 
Compassionate, and pitying his sad lot 
Spake unto Iris, saying, *Love so true. 

Steadfast as this 
Is not in vain. Are there not fields of bHss 
Prepared for sinless mortals? Go then, bear 
His spirit thither, let him feed on love. 
And rest content that thou may'st see him there.' 
Then Iris led his spirit thence with joy 
To the Elysian fields, but his bowed form 
She turned into a rock, which still doth stand 
Emblem of steadfast love beside the spring. 
Yea ! this, lona, canst thou understand. 
'Tis grief to say of love, it hath been mine 
But it is mine no more ; such grief is thine. 
Yet is it deeper woe to say of love, 
Behold ! how others joy therein above 
All gladness, even unto pain. Behold ! 
Love openeth the door to all delight, 
And unto every heart that passeth by 
He crieth, ' Enter here and live anew.' 
But unto me he cometh not, hence night 
And day I fast for that I never knew. 



84 , ION A. 

And starve for love, with patience which doth He 
Deeper, yea deeper than the well of tears." 



Here all sound ceased. And I with anxious fears 
In silence Hstened, for the babbhng stream 
Was still. Even my beating heart did seem 
To throb no more ; while over field and dell 
No breezes stirred, and brooding summer heat 
Covered the earth, while dreaming day slept on 

Where shadows fell. 
As if some charmed spell 
Held nature's self in thrall. 
Then made my heart an outcry in my fear. 
Lest in the silence I no more should hear 
Words, in the music of the stream, nor know 
More of the maiden Lesta, or the woe 
Which filled lona's soul with bitterness ; 
And with entreaties I began to break 
The silence. *' Sing again, O stream ! and make 
Thy murmuring voice to fall upon mine ear 
In broken melodies, and let me hear 
Once more those half formed words which tell of woe, 
Life, love, and mystery long past. Why so 
Hast charmed my spirit with a tale half told? 
See how my heart within me groweth cold 



ION A. 85 

And sick with fear, lest I shall hear no more, 
Till scarce it beateth, waiting for thy voice." 
Then came the restless ripple as before, 
Soft, faint and far, then nearer, nearer drew, 
Until at last the theme my spirit knew 
Whereof it sang, taking the thread anew. 
Telling lona's story, how she spake 
To Lesta in the darkness, hiding naught. 



CANTO III. 



CANTO III. 

lONA'S STORY. 

"My father Ion dwelt beside the sea, 
A mighty man of valorous deeds, who fought 
And conquered where he list, on sea or land ; 
Who knew no law save his own will ; who paid 
Homage to none save Gods ; whose mighty hand 
Knew never other thraldom than the love 
Which bindeth man to his own land and kin. 
I dwelt within my father's courts, above 
The sea, upon a rocky height. The din 
Of restless waves beating the rocks, the scream 
Of sea-birds overhead, and the hoarse cries 
Of sailors, as they called from out their boats 
One to another, were the sounds I heard 
In childhood, and my childish lullabies 
Were moanings of the waters, and the sighs 
Of winds among the rocks, or through the halls 
And many columned porches, wide and vast, 
That decked my father's palace by the sea. 

89 



9© • lONA. 

My brothers loved me, and my lot was cast 

In pleasant paths. No sister's love I knew, 

But gave my gentle mother all, — above 

The loving homage and obedience due 

Unto her from a daughter's heart, — the true 

Allegiance of a younger sister's love. 

Thus when my father lingered long afar. 

Leaving his people to my mother's care, 

My brothers being younger, unto me 

She turned, with loving eyes, and even sought 

Oft-times my counsel, saying, — * Thou hast caught 

And held within thyself thy father's soul, 

O daughter mine ! hence shalt thou be 

Thy father's self to me 
Till he return.' At last for many months 
He came not ; many, many months, and we 
Grew sick of counting them by days and hours, 
Oft looking on the sea, oft to the sky, 
For omens of his safe return, whereby 
We might prepare the feast, and with delight 
Go forth to meet the conqueror in his might. 
Weary we grew. And my sweet mother pined 
For him she loved, and daily grew more pale 
And wan with heartsick longing ; while her kind 
Old nurse, Astica, with assiduous care, 



lONA. 91 

Sought ever to remove her fears, and sang 

Unto the Kttle Hylax on her knee 

Songs of his father's glory, and how fair 

His mother grew from childhood ; of the sea, — 

How soon his father's fleet along the shore. 

Far to the southward would be seen ; before 

The south wind each swift, white-winged ship would fly, 

Each bearing eighty oarsmen, strong and bold, 

And many soldiers goodly to behold. 

Both tall and strong, and laden with red gold 

And spoils of war, with glory and good cheer 

Hasting to reach their homes, where wives and maids 

And children dear 
Would come to greet them shouting words of praise. 
Thus singing, ever would Astica raise 
Her eyes, and look in my pale mother's face. 
Albeit with covert glance, seeking to trace 
Some ray therein, of joyful hope or glad 

Expectancy ; 
But ever as she sang, my mother drooped, 
Because a lying oracle had said 
*Thy lord returns no more. He lieth dead 
Where eagles scream, and vultures have laid bare 
His bones.' For these words, in her heart Despair 
Abode, and smiling Hope turned pale and fled. 



92 lONA. 

Thus sorrowing she died ; for who hath care 
For Hfe, who hath no hope? — but to my charge 
Left Httle Hylax, saying, * Daughter dear, 
Thou more than child to me, sister, and friend, 
Unto thy faithful charge I do commend 

The little one. 
Be thou to him more than a sister. Take 
The place I leave. Thy father being gone, 
Whom hath he now but thee? But for my sake, 
Call not thy other brothers from their tasks, — 
QEagrus and Edonus — well may they 
Gain wisdom in the schools, learn warlike arts, 

And strengthen their young hearts 
To mighty deeds of valor, that in them 
Their father die not. Thou art young, and long 
The hill of life before thee thou must climb. 
The tide of wars a woman may not stem. 
Although thy heart be strong, 
To wise old Leros' counsels give thou heed. 
Thy father let him be, for thou wilt need 
All wisdom ; for with might, with spears and swords 
Man battles, while a woman hath but words 
For weapons. Yea ! in wit and not in deeds 
She conquereth, and slayeth with a breath. 
Not long it seemeth, now that creeping death 



lONA. 93 

Hath grasped me, since I held thee to my breast, 
My first-born babe, my blessing from the Gods. 
Child of my love, now shalt thou have no rest. 
The burden of thy country now must fall 
On thy young shoulders. Lift thy head, my child, 
And go before thy people as their queen. 
Whose word is law. The Gods have sent this call 
To thee. Go forth, and let thy face be seen. 
Tearless, and strong. Go forth as doth become 
Thy father's daughter. Know that what is best 

For them, is best for thee ; 

And when thy brothers come 
Of age to lead in war, set my request 
Before them, that they straightway go in quest 
Of Ion's bones; let them be laid to rest 

Beside my own ; 
For until this be done, 
Forever shall my spirit stray alone. 
Seeking the soul of him I loved on earth. 
Better than hfe. Thus will thy parents be. 
Both outcasts from the land of spirits free, 
Both wanderers in empty, dreary space, 
And driven forth in endless, fruitless race. 
Finding no home, no peace, no resting place, 
Until thy father shall receive of thee 

A sacred burial : 



94 lONA. 

Hence let this, and the little Hylax be 
Thy charge. Thou daughter dear, farewell.' 

" Thenceforth, from that same hour I was no more 

A child, but wore 
The dignity of womanhood. The voice 
That had foretold to us my father's death, 
Was guided by a lying tongue. The breath 
Had scarcely left her quivering lips, ere he 
Returned, laden with spoils of war, and crowned 
With victory. Amazed that no sound 
Of joyous welcome greeted him, before 
His heralds with hot haste he strode, and lo ! 
From out his palace none came forth. The woe 
Of wailing women rent the air, each door 
Was filled with weeping maidens. I alone 
Stood robed in white before him to speak words 
Of greeting, miserable words and few, 
Nor made I moan, nor shed I any tear. 
But straightway spake. 

' Father, thou comest here 
To meet an evil fate. 
For she whom well thou lovest, comes no more 

To greet thee, smiles no more 
For joy of thy return ; but for thy sake, 



ZONA. 95 

For love of thee, behold ! 
She lieth in her chamber, cold, yea cold ! 
Nor knows thy voice, nor yet that thou art near; 
Because the oracle spake evil words 
Concerning thee, and whispered in her ear 

When first she sought the voiceful cave, 
Saying, "Thy lord is slain, 
He lies beyond the wave 
Upon a desert plain. 

By vultures torn." 
For this she grieved night and mom, 
And grieving died. 
My father, bear this pain 
As thou hast often borne 
The sword-thrusts of thy foes. Then wert thou strong. 

Nor gavest sigh nor groan ; 
Hence leave salt tears to drop from women's eyes, 

As thou art wont, not from thine own.' 
Vain words I spake, for straight he passed me by 
As if he heard me not, and went alone 

Into her chamber, spake no word, 
But bowed him down before her. From that hour 
I never saw my father smile, nor heard 

His voice.. In silence from his side 
We bore her, for without, the white-robed throng 



96 ZONA. 

Waited to give her burial. Not long 

Were they thus parted. Following soon 
A fever smote my father, and he died. 

Then all the people mourned, the strong 
Bowed low, the humble grovelled in the dust, 
And from the priestly temples wailing came : 
But while the people wept, they with the same 
Breath clamored for their queen, and as needs must, 
I with my women stood before them there, 
And heard their cries and shoutings rend the air, 
And saw the mighty people who were mine 
To sway, thronging the gates, their faces turned 
Toward mine, their arms stretched out to me. My heart 
Grew pitiful and in my memory burned 
The words my mother spake, that 'what is best 

For them is best for thee.' 
Then lifting up my head I spake to them : — 
' Go forth, my friends, unto your homes, and rest 
In peace. Your hands in every peaceful art 

And kindly deed employ. 
I know you, for a people who have served 
And loved my father well, hence shall my heart 

Forever beat for you. 
Your joys, your woes are mine, your homes shall be 

As mine, sacred to me ; 



lONA. 97 

Your little children mine to love and bless. 
My life I give to you, and to redress 
Your every wrong, my joy. If foes assail, 
Be strong.; rise up against them, and prevail 

As you are wont to do. 
CEagrus and Edonus soon will stand 
Before you, mighty men, fit to command 
And lead in battles, skilled in warlike arts. 
Till then, go to your homes, content your hearts 
With simple joys, because your queen loves peace, 
Not wars and striving : hence on all your land 
May the great Gods shed smiles, and plenteous rains 
In season. May your joys and wealth increase ; 
May fat abundance fill your garners full; 
Your marriage feasts be many; may the sweet 
And merry laughter of young children ring 
Through all the land, new hopes and joys to bring. 
Filling your hearts and homes with blessedness.' 

*' I ceased, and at my words the people cried. 
Shouting aloud my praise with one accord; 
Then turned, and many as the sands they hied 

Each to his home well pleased. 
Demeter blessed us, and the Gods were kind ; 
And many suitors came who sought my hand 



98 lONA. 

In marriage ; but I loved them not, and bade 

Them seek elsewhere, that each might find 
To fill his choice a comelier maid. 
Saying — ' I know ye well, ye Greeks ! 
For when ye love, 'tis with your eyes, your hearts 
Come lagging after, crying out, " Look well," 

And " Is the maid of comely parts ? 
And well possessed of loveliness?" Who seeks 
A wife among you, seeketh beauty; this 
Have the great Gods denied me, hence for me, 
I will not wed.' At last Danaus came 

Across the sea. 
With fair demands, and many regal gifts. 
At which my counsellors, well pleased, began 
To question with me, saying, * Why dost set 
Thy face so sternly thus against this man? 
Were it not well for thee that thou shouldst wed, 
As for thy people?' Then in wrath I said, 

' What ! shall I sell my father's throne 
For empty words, and paltry gifts? 
I will not wed him. None shall stand 
Before you in the place my father held. 
Save one whose veins are filled with Ion's blood, 
Whose sword can smite Hke Ion's, and whose hand 
Is guided by as true a heart, to deeds 



lONA. 99 

That do become a king.' They answered me, 
'We speak for thee, and for thy country's needs. 
Thy suitor speaks fair words, and brings to thee 
Rich gifts, but turn thee from him, then will he 
Requite thy scorn with blood ; for he is strong. 
Mighty in anger, and thou canst not stand 
Before his hosts. No more shall thy fair land 
Be called the land of peace. Thy brothers, young, 
Thy nobles all asleep in ease, to lead 
Thy warriors forth whom hast thou?' 

* Nay ! I plead 
My woman's heart to set your words at naught. 
I cannot wed this man; my spirit turns 
With loathing from his smiles. His fair words, fraught 
With selfish seeking, win me not. What ! Give 
My father's throne, myself, into his hand ; 
My will, my people, that at his demand 
Their blood shall flow? That he may fill the cup 
Of his ambition to the brim, to quench 
His thirst for glory? Rather will I stand 
And let him drive his sword into my heart. 
Go tell him Nay ! and if he come with hosts 
As many as the sands upon these coasts, 
I will myself lead forth my warriors 
And smite him, and the Gods will be my shield.' 



100 lONA. 

Then to Danaus spake my counsellors, 

Albeit with careful words, they spake my will ; 

And he was wroth, and red with anger, turned 

And sought his ships, saying, 'Thy queen hath spumed 

Her master. It is well. She hath not learned 

To bow her to another. She shall bend 

As grass beneath my feet, when I return.' 

I with my maids, beheld Danaus' ships 

Like white birds, pass, and heard his oars-men rend 

The peaceful air with shouts ; while with pale lips 

And beating hearts, we watched them glide away 

Far on the blue sea's rim, and rock and sway, 

Riding the waves like sea birds. Suddenly 

Above them hung a cloud, which momently 

Grew darker and more angry, till I cried, 

* Behold ! the frown of Zeus ! ' and as I spake 

Strong winds strove with the sea from either side, 

And met in elemental combat fierce ; 

Causing the ships to rattle and to shake, 

Even as pebbles shaken in the hand. 

Then all the sky grew dark, nor sight could pierce 

The density. We felt our faces fanned 

From off the sea with the hot breath of strife. 

Danaus' ships returned unto my land. 

Dismembered giants, broken, hurled, and tossed 



lONA. lOI 

By the remorseless waters on the sand, 

In fragments torn. His mighty hosts all lost, 

And he no more : 
And in the evening when the clouds were passed, 
And nature all at rest, I with my maids 

Walked on the shore, 
And saw how thus the Gods had wrought for me. 
Now is it hard for me to tell thee all 
My story, Lesta, for the strife within 
My bosom giveth me no words. I fall 
Before thee here, to crave thy mercy. Give 
To me thy beauty. Then thou mayest live 
And share delights eternal with the Gods, 

While I shall thus attain the end 
Of my existence, be revenged, and die." 
But Lesta answered, "Thou know'st not the tie 
That bindeth thee to life, lona. Send 

Thy body to the grave, and still 
Thou livest, but if thou dost change for mine, 
Thy plain exterior, thou shalt fulfil 
Only thy days on earth. Then shalt thou be 
Like to the bubbles floating on the stream. 
That laugh, and dance a moment, and are gone." 
lona spake again, " I crave of thee 
Only this boon, nor would I have thee deem 



I02 lONA. 

My reason gone astray. See ! not one jot 
Of all my bitterness will I conceal 
From thee, nor any pang which I may feel 
Shall cause my words to cease till all be told. 

While thus we paced the sands 
I saw one lie before me as if dead, 
Tossed by the waves and beaten, but behold ! 
Most beautiful to see. His locks hke gold, 
Like burnished gold, clustered about his head, 

While half within his hands 
He held a lyre ; beside him on the sands 

Was thrown a myrtle wreath. 
In truth, most like a God he seemed, and we 
In wonderment regarded him. My maids 
Abashed, were silent. One spake low, ' We see 
A God before us fallen in the strife.' 
I answered, '■ Nay ! not so ! The Gods die not. 
Go quickly, let him straight-way be conveyed 
Into the palace, that if any life 
Remain, it may be cherished. He is laid 
Before us by the Gods, that we may give 
Him sacred burial, or if he live, 
That we befriend him as becometh one 
Beloved of them.' With haste my will was done ; 
And he within an eastern chamber laid, 



lONA. 103 

Returned to life, yet lay for many days 
Nigh unto death, while I in all the ways 
Of nursing skilled, cared for him tenderly, 
As for a child. So beautiful he seemed. 
In form and face so like a God, my heart 
Was stirred with gentle tumult that in part 
Was like to pity, and in part was pain. 
Yet was so sweet to bear, that I would fain 
Have laid me down beside him had he died. 
And breathed no more for very joy of it : 
Yet this none knew, for when his strength returned. 
That he could look into my face, I spurned 
The lingering thought of those sweet moments past, 
And in the secret chambers of my heart 

I locked them fast. 
That when his eyes sought mine as they would say, 
'Draw near to me,' and would not turn away, 
I spake to him, 'My task is done". I pray 
The Gods may give thee strength for noble deeds, 
As thou art formed for valor. I must needs 
Now leave thee to thyself, and to the care 
Of others : ' then I sought my chamber, there 
To weep, to set my heart at rest, and then, 
To broider a new garment, and to call 
My maidens all about me, that again 



104 lONA. 

They might betake them to their tasks. At last 
One came to me and said, * He from the sea 
Whom thou hast saved, hath made concerning thee 
Many inquiries, saying, " Who is she 
Who hath through all these weary days been near? 
Whose gentle touch wrought healing in my veins? 
My sick heart longs for her. Would she were here 
Whose dark eyes looked upon me in my dreams, 
And soothed my spirit with their shaded light. 
Why comes she not? So gentle was her mien. 
And yet so regal, that methinks no queen 
Could bear herself more royally than she : " 

But when we told him of thy high degree 
He turned his face away, and sadly spake, 

'' If she be queen, then what to her am I ? 
Give me my lyre, that I may sing of her and die," 
And so we left him singing there of thee. 
So sweet the song, and yet so sad the strain. 
That it would break thy heart to hear, O queen ! ' 

" I answered, ' Nay ! Hearts break not for a song. 
Go bid him live, and say thy queen commands 
That he appear before her to declare 
From whence he cometh, or if he belong 
Unto Danaus' host ; then go prepare 



lONA. 105 

A feast, and bid my singers all appear, 

All they who play upon the harp and lyre ; 

And to my counsellors and nobles say 

The queen commands you to the feast ; thus may . 

All hear this stranger from the seas relate 

The tale of his adventures, and what fate 

Hath cast him on our shores.' And all was done 

As I commanded ; and the feast was great. 

And lasted many days. The stranger one 

Whom I had rescued from the sea, 
Foremost was he 
In song and dance, 
And ever in the games of skill, or chance, 
Stood second unto none. 

In very truth he seemed to be 

More like to Gods than men : 
And there before the assembled host he told 
His name, — the name that cleaveth to my tongue 
When I would speak it, — Diophantus. Bold 
In every glance ; supple his limbs and strong ; 
In movement restless, yet so full of grace. 
No eye could choose but follow him. His face, 
As changeful as the morning sky. His eyes, — 
But ah ! I cannot tell thee of those lights 

That stole me from myself, for when 



io6 lONA. 

His glance met mine, the throng to him seemed lost, 

And he and I alone were there ; and then. 

Such tenderness they wore, such softness rare, 

Like light of Heaven when Artemis lies 

Athwart the sun, that I, — my foolish eyes 

Saw only his ; my ears heard but his voice ; 

My every heart-beat told the moments past 

That held him from me, till he stood at last 

Before me with his lyre. He sang of home. 

His home, far from the sea, where mountains kiss 

The skies, and golden clouds sleep on their breasts ; 

Of grassy plains, with dewy lilies dressed, 

Where happy maidens roam ; 
Of shepherds and their flocks, and of the bliss 
None know, but those who dwell within those vales, 
And love because they know naught else but love : 
Then, had he been a serpent, I a dove, 
I would have fluttered trembling to his breast. 
And there in ecstasy of living, died ; 
But being queen, I turned my face aside, 

And gazed across the sea. 
And said within my heart, ' The world is wide, 
Let him go seek a maid of like degree 
Unto himself.' Yet still he sang and sighed. 
And sighing still, with cruel charm he drew 



lONA. ' 107 

My heart from me. Ah ! well, full well he knew 
I was no more my own, but his. 
Then were we wed : 
And all bowed low to him, for many said, 
^The Gods have sent a suitor to our queen, 
And this is he ; ' and I believed their words. 
Diophantus loved me ? Yea ! And hast thou seen 
The golden banded bee, from flower to flower 
Pass swiftly, sipping sweets, and every hour 
Seeking new blossoms for his honeyed kiss? 
Such love is Diophantus'. I for this 
Have given all : my life, my sacred trust. 
My people's love, the peace that makes life joy; 
That now my spirit lieth in the dust 
And crawls before thee, calling to the Gods 
To hear me, — grant me vengeance. Me ! a toy / 
To please him for an hour and be cast by. 
Broken and worthless? or a stalk his hand 
Hath, ruthless, stripped of flowers and leaves, to stand 
And be a mockery for his pleasure ? Nay ! 
I will not bend, nor turn aside, until 
The Gods have heard me, and I have my will. 
Erinyes holdeth me. My cause is just. — 
For many days the hours sped merrily 
A laughing round of joyous moments, each 



I08 lONA. 

More blissful than the last ; but for my trust, 

The little Hylax, never would he smile 

On Diophantus ; never would he reach 

His little hand out toward him, as with touch 

Caressing, for Diophantus loved him not. 

And well his childish eyes perceived the guile, 

My blinded glance saw not. I could not brook 

The child's aversion, nor dreamed I the while, 

Of aught but purest thoughts of tenderness. 

In him I loved ; and gently chid the child. 

With foolish sorrow at his stubborn will. 

One day, — the sea was calm, the heavens smiled 

Upon our love, the air was soft and mild 

And brought us odors from the land of flowers 

And of renewing life ; what bliss was ours ! 

What boundless joy ! — Diophantus took my hand, 

And led me on across the beaten sand 

Beside the sea, and spake there of his home, 

And of the laden breezes from the land 

Bringing sweet breath of flowers and thoughts of home. 

And when I answered him, 'Thy home is here, 

Dear heart, self chosen and bestowed on thee 

Both by the Gods who brought thee, and by me 

Through boundless love ; now in my heart, I fear 

Thou longest for that other land from whence 



ION A. 109 

Thou cam'st to me,' — he spake in gentle words 

Most sweet to hear, 
And called me by all loving names most dear, 
Saying, 'Far rather would I linger here • 

In thy loved presence, debtor to thy hand, 
Than own the kingdoms of the earth, or stand 
Beside the fairest woman ever lived. 
Rather be beggar unto thee, or slave 
To tie thy sandals, fetch wherewith to lave 
Thy feet, if I thereby might dare to touch 
Even the silken girdle that doth press 
Beneath thy breasts, across thy beating heart. 
Yet now what joy is mine, that not alone 
Thy girdle, but beneath thy snowy dress. 
The heart it bindeth, yea ! thyself, my own 

Forever art. 
From thy crowned head unto thy jewelled feet. 
I would not change my state, not for the seat 
Of Zeus, not for the sceptre of a God, 

Since thou art mine.' 
I answered him, ' And yet thou dost repine ; 
Thou longest for the land thou callest home.' 
* Nay ! Nay ! ' he cried. ' Not for the land, sweet dove. 
My father dwelleth there, and for the love 
I bear him, when soft breezes blow, I roam 



no ION A. 

These sands and dream of him : his sih^er hair, 
His stately figure, his majestic air, 
And all the charms his presence used to wear 
* For me, his wayward son, whom well he loved ; 

That oftentimes I start, 
As I would clasp him to my heart ; 
And oftentimes I seem to see his smile ; 
But well I know he deems me dead, the while 
I dwell in joyous pleasance at thy side, 
And grieves for me. Since all Danaiis' host 

With whom I sailed are lost. 
And I but barely snatched from death 

By thy dear hand, my bride. 

How may he know of this? 

Hence throughout all my bliss, 
A sadness bideth, that I turn aside 
Ofttimes my face, lest thou shalt see the pain, 

That hideth there.' 
Again I spake, almost in anger, ' Where 
Dost keep thy love for him, that thou canst thus 

So smother it? Where is thy heart? 
Know if he hath for thee but one-tenth part 
The love I bear thee, he would grieving lay 
His gray head in the grave. Why dost delay 
And only dream thou seest him? Go hence 



ION A. Ill 

With speed, bearing rich gifts, and say 
" Thy daughter sendeth these, for love of him 
Who brings them to thee ; " then when thou hast made 
His aged heart young, for joy at sight of thee, 
Return with haste, and may thy love for me 
Be wings unto thy feet. May fair winds blow 
To fill thy ship's white sails, for well I know 
The Gods who brought thee hither will bestow 
Their watchful care, and bring thee once again 
Unto these arms. It is a woman's lot 
To wait with sighs and tears her absent lord. 
That lot be mine, till thy return.' 

* No word 
Of love,' he cried, ^ from other lips ere fell 
With half the charm of thy sweet chiding. Tell 
Thy heart this secret, — 'tis for love of thee 

I have delayed. Nay ! now, to see 
Thee frown, gives me delight, for then thou art 
Most regal. By my sword ! I will not part 
From thee. Nay ! cannot, — but if thou wilt sail 
With me, while seas are calm, and winds are free, 
Right gladly will I go. And for rich gifts, 
I will have naught but thee. Nay ! turn not pale, 
For thou art all I long for, all my heart 

Delighteth in. How can we part?' 



112 I ON A. 

Where is a woman's strength when led by love? 
Blindfolded she puts forth her hand, and cries 
To him she loveth, * Lead, I follow thee.' 
Thus I to Diophantus. Woman dies 

Unto herself, and lives alone 
In him she loves. I went with him. Our boats 

Spread silken sails, and clove . the sea 
With gilded prows. Ah ! happy days ! How shone 
The 'golden God above, who conquereth night ! 
Each day was filled with music, and delight 

Went with us on our southward way. 
Nearchus, one of wise and good command, 
With half the court, I left in my own land 
As regent there, that justice might not fail 
Till my return ; but ever by my side 
I kept the little Hylax, and with him, 
Astica, my dead mother's nurse ; while dim 
And faint behind us grew my native shore, 
Fading and fading till it was no more ; 
And other lands spread fair upon our left, 
And islands rose in green and purple haze 

From out the sea. Right merrily 
The sailors rowed and sang; while in a maze 
Of happy dreams my spirit slumbered on. 
And every evening when the wind was low 



I ON A, 113 

We sought some sleepy islet of the sea 

And moored our ships, that swaying to and fro, 

Rocked with the rocking tide, in dreamy dance. 

Ah ! heart of mine, be still ! 
Fair Lesta, if it were not for my vow 

To be revenged, my words should cease. 
How can I tell thee all ! My restless will 

Cries, ^ On ' ! My heart cries, ' Peace ' ! 
Thus for a space of five days, merrily 
We sailed, and each night on some islet green 
We rested till the dawn. With leafy screen 
Of blooming, scented boughs our booths were made, 
Fair nature's chambers j and therein was laid 
For each his silken couch ; while on the sward 
Apart, the sailors rested, feasting there 
Beneath the jewelled arch of heaven, each 
Telling his tale of wonder or of war. 

And dangers past. 
One morn, while yet the dawn was faint, I heard 
Without my bower, a woeful bitter cry; 
Mayhap 'twas but some lonely watching bird 

Calling for its dead mate. 

Whate'er the sound might be 
My spirit knew it as the cry of fate.- 
I called, — ' Diophantus ! ' trembling in my fear. 



114 ION A. 

He answered not. I rose, and he was gone. 

' Astica ! ' then I called, ' Astica ! hear ! ' 

But all was still. With beating heart, alone 

I left the fragrant booth, wherein full sweet 

My sleep had been, and sped with flying feet 

Calling, — ' Diophantus ! Where hast hid thyself? ' 

The morning breeze blew cool upon my brow. 

The lamps of night flashed one by one and died. 

The blue mists shrouded sea and earth, while wide 

Bright Eos threw the gates of heaven ; but now 

I heeded not the glory of the east. 

Diophantus whom I loved was gone. I feared 

I knew not what. I trembled lest the Gods 

Had borne him from me. Suddenly appeared 

Astica, shaking as with palsied age 

Who yesterday was strong. 'What dost thou fear?' 

I cried. She answered — ' Nothing, 'tis with rage 

I tremble.' Frenzied then, I seized her arm, 

Besought her with upbraidings tell what harm 

Had fallen on Diophantus, — why if she 

Had heard my call she had not answered me? 

She said, — ' The anger in me choked my words. 

I could not speak and so I followed thee ; 

For I have heard this night, that which — if thou 

Wert not a Greek — would kill thee, yet I trow 



ION A. 115 

Thou'rt made of mettle, which the heat of wrath 

Will only temper into sterner stuff. 

Look yonder, toward the sea, canst say what hath 

Become of all thy ships? each goodly sail 

Was given to the breeze, yea ! hours ago. 

Now follow after me, nor weep nor wail. 

Till I have showed thee all.' But I stood still, 

And answered, — ' 'Tis a dream. I have not yet 

Awakened from my sleep. I will not fret 

Because I see no sail. Are they not gone 

For water? Where is Diophantus? Lo ! 

The couch was empty at my side. Ah ! no ! 

I dream ! Astica, waken me, I dream ! ' 

She answered me, ' I would that still thon wert 

Asleep, or even dead, that this great hurt 

Might not befall thee. Follow me, I pray : ' 

And then she led me back and showed the bowers 

Where my attendants rested, torn away. 

Trampled and scattered. '■ See ! ' she cried, * four hours 

Ago they sailed away, and left thee here 

Alone with me, and with the child. No fear 

They will return for thee or him.' But still 

I comprehended not her words. No will 

Had I to move or speak : my heart scarce beat. 

Nor hardly might a whisper pass my dry, 



Il6 ION A. 

Parched throat. My tongue clove to my teeth, my feet 
Like, leaden weights, hung on me heavily : 
Yet all my fear and anguish were for one, 
Not for myself. At last broke forth the cry 
From my hot lips, the silence piercing shrill, — 
' Where have they taken him I love ? Tell me ! 
Diophantus ! Is he slain? Then let them kill 
lona also. Who hath done this thing? 
Astica, speak ! Tell all thou knowest ! — Thee 
The Gods have chosen to unveil 
This mystery. 
Speak ! or I crush thee ! * 
Then fell Astica on the earth. Her wail 
Of anguish rose to Heaven answering mine. 
She clasped my feet, she bathed them with her tears, 
Rained kisses on them, crying out, — ' 'Tis thine ! 
O queen ! the woe is thine ! and still 'tis mine, 
In that I love thee, as- none others love.' 
Then I grew pitiful for her, and sought 
To raise her from the earth, and while my thought 
Was given to her, my heart became more calm ; 
And when she would not rise, I on the sward 
Sat near, and took her gray head in my lap. 
And tenderly besought her, — ' Say what hap, 
Astica, hath befallen thee and me 



lONA. 117 

This night. Pray thee spare not. Thy heart I see 
Is grieving thus for me : but tell me all. 
Say who hath stolen my love from me? Perchance 
We yet may find him.' At these words in wrath 
She rose, towering above me. ^ Woman ! hide 

Thy face,' she cried. 
*The serpent loves thee not, but led 
By greed, and longing with desire for one 
More beautiful than thou, hath gone to wed 
Ilerda, the blonde woman of thy court ; 
Laestro's daughter, on whom all men's eyes 
Are turned with favor. — All the words they said, 
I heard them all. — What now are thy poor cries? 
What are thy tears ? Nay, shed them not ; but rise, 
And curse Diophantus. Curse him to the skies. 
Let Hera be the witness of your wrongs.' 
I only moaned, and gazed across the sea. 
To see my ships come sailing back to me. 
That never came. Astica still spake on. 
'I' dreamed concerning thee, — last night but one, — 
A serpent wound about thee, with his fangs 
Striking at thy white breast ; and in my dream 
I tore it off from thee. Then did it seem 
To take Diophantus' form, and creep away : 
And for the dream, I made a vow that day 



Il8 ION A. 

To drink no wine, nor yet at night to sleep, 
But waiting, hour by hour, 
To watch beside thy bower. 
Lest evil should befall thee, my loved Queen. 
At midnight, saw I, like a shadow pass 
Laestro, and beneath yon tree he paused. 
Then slowly creeping from thy bower, he came, 
The serpent of my dream. I saw them stand 
Conversing there, and drawing near, in shade 
Of yonder shrubs, I heard how thus they planned 
To leave thee here with me and with the child. 
I heard Laestro ask, — " How sleeps the queen ? " 
The serpent answered, — "Well," and thereat smiled. 
I saw his white teeth in the darkness gleam 
In even rows. " The wine wherein last eve 
She pledged me ere she slept, from Lethe's stream 
Was brought, and well distilled from poppy flowers ; 
From crimson blooms of sleep, its ruddy tint 
Was drawn ; that well I trow, for many hours 
Her sleep will dreamless be, and deep as death." 
At this, I trembling sank upon the earth. 
Nor could I move till thy call came, — my breath 
Seemed gone. Laestro spake, — " Death let it be." 
Then quickly said Diophantus, " Nay ! not so ; 
Speak not of death : living I fear her not ; 



I ON A. 119 

But dead, — Laestro, never canst thou know 
The power the dead may have. Her cold white hand 
Would lie on my warm heart, till she had drawn 
Me after her ; or ever would she stand 
In spirit between me and the fair bride 
Thy daughter, loveliest maid, who soon will be 
Queen in her place. Here let them stay. This land 
Though small and uninhabited, is green, 
And fair, and fertile. Let her here be Queen. 
Her sovereignty we will not here deny. 
Astica her chief counsellor, — her heir. 
Young Hylax. If so be, they here shall die. 
We know not of it, nor the fault be ours. 
Nay ! we will even leave provision here 
For many days. I have no fear 
They will return, — with neither sail nor oars. 
See how unresting waves crawl round this isle 
In many rings, like living chains. The while 
lona, with Astica and the child 
Bide here, we are well rid of them. Beguiled 
By tender speeches, she will never dream 
That aught but dire calamity hath been 
The cause of her desertion. She will frame 
Reasons enough to cloud the sun. 
Ere she will blame 



120 lONA. 

Diophantus. Yea ! I know her well. 'Tis done 

All as I wished. My dagger, red with blood, 

Lies on the sand, with lamb's blood sprinkled there, 

To show how valiantly I fought for her. 

The garment also which last eve I wore, 

Lies torn to shreds ; my necklace broken lies, 

The jewels torn apart ; all these her eyes 

Will fix upon. She will construe 
Their meaning to the comfort of her heart. 
Thus saving thee and me her curses dire." 
" How of her brothers who are left ? What fire 
Canst thou invent to blind their eyes with smoke, 
That they like hounds scent not our deeds?" 
Spake then Laestro — " Know that we must needs 
Beware. Young sons of Ares ' are they all ; 
And we do well to fear them." 

"On their fall 
Have I considered," Diophantus spake, 
" Ere we return, thou shalt have naught to fear. 
To free my path from both the other lords, 
I will not fail. Think not of them, for they 
P'ar on our northern border, where wild hordes 
Of aliens have of late been troubling us, 
Like lions have gone forth to seek their prey, 

* Mars. 



lONA. 121 

Eager for glory and for victory. 

And with them are ray emissaries gone, 

Provided well with motives for their deeds. 

Thus it shall be, if they with all the haste 

And mastering frowardness of youth, must needs 

Stand first among the troops, they shall be first 

To fall, and if so be they fall, by foe 

Or friend, 'tis one to us. They are no more. 

The country is well rid of them, and so 

Are we. Come ! let us stir ourselves. Dost know 

What tale to tell the men? Say that this shore 

Is guarded by a dragon, horrible 

And fierce, who hath already borne away 

Their Queen, together with the lad, his nurse 

And thou know'st not what others. Shout and say 

Diophantus followeth for her rescue, swift 

As flying arrows have they gone ; and when 

Thou hast created uproar in the camp, 

I will return, — call order, — bid the men 

Fly to the boats, — relade them, — and set sail." 

Laestro spake again, " How if we fail ? 

Or if Astica waken, or the child?" 

Then angrily Diophantus spake, — " Thou fool ! 

How if I left this matter to thy wild 

And wandering wit, so clumsily to plot? 



122 lONA. 

Wouldst give sleep-laden wine to one, and not 

To all the three ? Nay ! they all dream one dreani 

This night. Go ! stir thyself, and fill the air 

With frenzy. Let men shout, and women scream, 

But guard meanwhile, with most assiduous care. 

The bowers wherein the witless sleepers lie. 

If any venture near, rail on them ; cry 

That poisonous serpents hide within ; or try 

What subtlety thou hast, to lead them off. 

And hearken, if we fail, 'tis thou, not I 

Must fall, for unto thee have I alone 

Confided ; hence, 'tis either thou shalt stand 

First after me, thy daughter queen, — or dieT ' 

These words Astica heard, while dumb and still 

She crouched upon the earth beside them there, 

Listening, and waiting, while her very will 

To move seemed taken from her, in her wrath. 

Until her sense fled from her and she swooned ; 

And when at last her faint returning breath 

Brought back her reason, they were gone, and she 

Alone, stretched on the earth, with night dews drenched, 

Hopeless and wretched. Then she heard my voice 

Calling at early dawn, * Diophantus, where 

Hast hid thyself ? ' and she had left no choice 

But rise as she was wont, and come to me. 



ZONA. 123 

Yet dumb and choked with rage." 

" How may this be," — 
Then Lesta asked, — " that thou art here, so far 
From any sea-coast, or from home? What star 
Hath led thee?" but lona said, ''Alas! 
I know but this. My reason went astray 
For many days, and I was witless quite. 
Astica tended me, and kept alight 
The fire the sailors left upon the strand, 
A beacon toward the sea, and on the land 
A cheering blaze, that gave both warmth and hope. 

How long I know not, yet I know, — 
It seemeth now a dream, — that far away 
Upon the sea's blue edge, we saw what seemed 
A boat upon the rocking tide, 

Slow drifting near; 
And now it seemed a boat, and now it gleamed 
A pearl white shell, buoyed up ; then did appear 
As Amphitrite's changeful mystic craft. 

With wide sail spread. 

Dyed gold and red, 
In western tints, when Phoebus rideth low; 
And drawing ever nearer, and more near. 
Our eager, watching eyes beheld, with fear 
That mingled still with joy, and hope that here 



124 ION A. 

Might be deliverance, a figure strange, 
Nor fish nor man, that never yet I ween 
Hath one so strange by mortal eye been seen, 
Who spake to me, — 

* Hear ! thou lona, Queen ! 
The God of waters hath commanded me 
To bear thee hence in safety. He will be 
Thy friend, for he hath heard thy piteous tale. 
For thee, the sea is calm, and thou shalt sail 
Unharmed to thy loved shores. See ! for thy sake 
The winds are soft and low.' Astica spake, 
*Kind being, we will trust ourselves with thee, 
For sure no state could e'er more woeful be 
Than ours.' For me, the direful thought of home, 
And Diophantus' crimes, filled all my soul 
Anew with frenzy, and I cried, ' My goal 
Till death, shall be revenge ; and I will roam 
The earth forever. Yea, in death will lie 
Unburied, until I have found whereby 
I may accomplish it. Take thou the child 
And nurse, both back from whence we were beguiled, 
Our dear loved land. There may they lie concealed; 
I will not there remain, in this sad plight 
Neglected of mine own, a hopeless wight, 
A mark for pitying eyes, the stranger's scorn ; 



lONA. 125 

But morn and night, and ever night and morn, 
My cry shall reach the Gods, to hear my woe 
And grant redress. To free my father's throne 
From him that, cursed, cumbereth it.' 
Then were we borne across the sea. Alone 
I left" them on my native shore. For me 
They wept. The only lives to whom mine own 
Still clung; and Hylax, reaching forth his arms 
Sobbed out my name, and cried, — ' Sweet sister, stay ! 
Oh ! leave me not.' — And then I sailed away ; 
But when my straining eyes saw them no more, 
Again my grief o'ercame me. To what shore 
That boatman strange conveyed me, I know not, 
For when again I knew myself, this spot 
So bright and beauteous, beguiled me. 
And thy soft voice in music wakened me, 
To seek once more for death, because of woe. 
Yet now, no longer seek I death. Dost know 
Why thus I have revealed all to thee. 
Which pride forbade me utter? Thou may'st see 
If I indeed have sorrow. All save one. 
My brothers in their noble youth are slain, 
Myself an outcast, and my father's throne 
Polluted thus by crimes, where never stain 
Hath been. Yea ! when I think on him whose voice 



126 ION A. 

To me was sweetest music, and whose love 

Was new wine in my veins, I have no choice 

But curse him who thus gave me false for true. 

What wonder that I rave, and tear myself 

With inward throes? What wonder that I sue 

For that wherewith I may accomplish all? 

'Tis vengeance that I ask. Whate'er befall. 

Give me but one tenth part the loveliness 

Thou deemest but a curse. I ask redress. 

Yea ! woe on Diophantus, whom I loved 

With love so tender, and so deep and true ; 

My happy life was his ; each breath I drew 

For him ; and death would have been joy 

To save him but one little scratch of pain. 

All this is past. Let me not ask in vain 

Thy help, fair Lesta. 'Tis a little thing. 

I know the penalty of that I ask. 

Yet if I may fulfil the direful task 

That Diophantus' crimes have set for me. 

Like as a taper flickers in the wind 

And dies, so shall my life depart ; the end 

A fitting one for woe ; but as for thee, 

What gladness waits thee, if thou grant my plea? 

Thy place among immortals thus to gain, 

And joys of Gods ; no more to feel the pain 



lONA. 127 

That mortals suffer, and the bHss of love 
To be forever thine." 
Then answered Lesta, " Now Hope draweth near, 
And smiling beckons me, and fair and clear 
The Heavens open to my eager gaze. 
What new delights are these? What shifting maze 
Of wondrous thoughts, and joys untried, beguile 
My startled sense ! Ah ! Mother Iris ! smile 
And love me as thou lovedst me of old. 
'Tis she who comes, lona ! see ! behold 
The grace she hath. Thou spirit blest ! Divine 
Restorer of that life which thou didst give, 
Draw near, draw near. Now do I feel, now live ! 
Yet nay ! lona. Nay ! I will not leave 
Thee plunged in sorrow, more than thou hast borne 
Ere this. The threads of our two lives will weave 
Thus crossed, a web of woe thou canst not break. 
Sweet mother Iris ! Hear me, for the sake 
Of this sad woman at my side, and take 
Away the curse that foUoweth the gift 
I would bestow on her." 

"I may not lift," — 
Then Iris spake, — "one feather's weight of woe 
From her sad lot. If she will rashly wear 
Thy loveliness, so also must she bear 



128 ION A. 

The curse that goeth with it, and no power 

Can alter fate, save the high word of Zeus ; 

This only may I grant, that in that hour, 

When Diophantus' love again is hers. 

She may bestow on him what woe she will." 

lona bowed herself and spake. " He still 

Hath honor who hath spurned my love. Restore 

The throne of Ion to its rightful heir 

My brother, and for Diophantus, more 

Than this I ask not : — let his body take 

The form that rightly fits his soul ; within, 

A serpent, let him crawl as serpents should, 

And take him from the sight of men." 
And while lona spake, she trembling stood. 
And would have fallen, had not Lesta turned 
And caught her, with her beauteous arms intwined 
About her. Thus they stood, while Iris spake : — 
"The penalty is just, nor art thou blind 
In what thou askest ; hence, when he shall take 
From thy red lips one kiss, then shalt thou be 
Revenged with double vengeance, for the charm 
Is thine. Behold this chain of milk-white pearls. 
Wear them upon thy bosom, and no harm 
Shall come to thee. They are the tears that fell 
Last night but one, from thy dark eyes. 



lONA. 129 

Thy sorrow thus before thee, thy strong soul 

Shall hold thee to thy task. 'Tis well 
Thou art content with that, for it is all 
Thou'lt have to comfort thee, when comes the call 
To yield thy strong and beauteous life 
For nothingness." Thus Iris spake. The strife 
In Lesta's bosom held her, dumb. • 

" Now well 
Content am I," lona said, and then 

Deep silence fell. 
The voice of Echo only through the dell. 
Cried on in sadness, "Well! 'tis well! 'tis well!" 



CANTO IV. 



CANTO IV. 

THE RETURN. 

Still laughing, babbling, sighing flowed the stream. 

And still I listened for the broken dream 

Of words, to fill its music with the theme 

Of its past singing. Now of future years, 

Now of the past it murmured, till my tears 

Fell fast, and mingled with its waters. Sweet 

And plaintive was its voice, that never ceased ; 

And as my tear drops met the waves, that fleet 

And restless rippled on, nor paused, I heard 

A silvery laugh, and then a sigh. — No bird 

E'er uttered note so sweet, — then low and deep 

The voice that told lona's story spake 

Once more slow, dropping words : Why dost thou weep ? 

Hear while I tell another tale, will make 

Thy smiles return. 

One day — the year was young, 
The tender grass blades by the roadside sprung, 
And nature in new loveliness arrayed 

Lay dreaming in the sun, — 



134 ION A. 

A woman, tall and beautiful, like light 

Along the highway sped, her chariot white 

As ivory, the wheels o'erlaid with gold. 

Two fair white steeds, her hand with dextrous hold 

Restrained. Her robes, like webs at morn alight 

With misty jewels gathered in the night, 

Wrapped round her, clinging fold on silken fold, 

Revealing, yet concealing the rare mould 

Of her lithe figure : all her waving hair 

Coiled high in golden rings, by azure bands 

Confined : her arms unjewelled, bare. 
No ornament she wore 
Save only at her throat, wound thrice about, 
And falling on her bosom warm and fair, 
A chain of pearls, milk white. Beside her there 

And seated at her feet 
An aged woman rode, — who once was strong, — 
With silvery hair ; as one who hath lived long 
And seen much sorrow, yet is still unbent, 
Was she : and by the chariot a lad 
Of noble mien and grace, yet humbly clad. 
Sprang lightly forward, with delighted eyes 
Noting each movement of the queenly one. 
Rejoicing that he thus might near her run. 
As he could so more quickly know her will. 



lONA. 135 

Without a city's gate, 'neath grateful shade 

Of arching trees the woman bade be still 

Her restless steeds, and on the aged dame 

With kindly eyes looked down, and said, "Thy name 

I crave. Is it Astica ? Nay ! start not, 

I am thy friend;" — then to the lad she spake — 

"Go forward, pray thee, for a little space. 

And learn for me what news thou canst, — this place 

Is changed, and yet I know it well ; — and make 

What speed thou wilt, while here we will remain 

Till thy return." Then to the dame again 

She spake, — " Trust me, Astica. I would ask 

Thy help as thou didst mine, when weary there 

I found thee by the roadside. This thy task : 

Take thou this purse of gold, pass yonder gate. 

And take the thronged street that lieth straight 

Before thee ; pass the first and second way 

That crosseth it, but when thou comest where 

The third path cuts across thine own, there stay 

And turn a little to the right. Around 

A clear outleaping fountain there thou'lt see 

A court, neglected, where grass grows between 

Uneven paving stones. An aged tree 

Stands in the court. Around, a house is seen 

Of marble, stained with age ; before the door 



136 lOiXA. 

Stand seven columns, fluted, of rare stone : 

Beside the fount a dial, — like a leaf 

Thou shakest. Hast thou ever been before 

Where now I send thee?" Then with sigh and groan 

Astica spake, " I fear thee, — I am old, — 

My life of little worth, — yet do I hold 

A fearful charge. Sweet maid, betray me not, 

And I will be thy slave. I ask not gold. 

Be kind. Twice hast thou spoken now my name. 

Oh ! speak it not again, for none must hear 

It uttered in this place." 

" Have no more fear," — 
The woman said, " for know, I would not harm 
One gray hair on thy head, for all the gold 
On mine. Nay ! I would help thee, nor alarm 
Thy true heart with one fear. Did I not say 
To thee, I am thy friend? Then trust me pray 
With thy dread secret. More than half I know." 
Astica answered, "When thou bad'st me go 
To yonder house, I trembled. Oft those stones 

My feet have trod, for there 
Lived one whom my lost queen loved well, and where 
The fountain plashed, she often sat to hear 

His wise discourse. I fear 
To enter there, lest he may know my face ; 



lONA. 137 

For I must shield the lad in yonder place, 
Till one be found to hear my tale, will guard 
My secret well, who yet hath strength and power 
To give me aid. The youth gone on before, 
None know. He is the brother of my queen. 
The son of Ion, and the rightful heir 
Unto his father's throne. His brothers dead, — 
His sister now no more, — this old gray head 
Alone hath he for his dependence. May 
The Gods be kind." 

! She answered her, "The way 

To reach the end thou seekest is through me. 
I know thee and the lad, young Hylax. Yea ! 
I know thy queen, whom still thou lovest. Nay ! 
Bow not before me. I am but as she 
A mortal. Well I love the lad and thee. 
Be faithful, and in doing thus my will, 
Anew thou givest thyself to her, and still 
Dost serve her as in days of old ; nor harm 
Shall come to thee nor to the lad. This charm 
Of gold and jasper, — thou dost know it well. 
The clasp lona wore above her arm, 
I have concealed it in my girdle. — Tell 
The aged Leros, he who still doth dwell 
Whereto I send thee, that lona asks 



138 lONA. 

Of him a favor. If he doubts thy word 

Or deems her dead, give him the clasp. The spell 

Of mystic symbols hereon traced, full well 

He knows them, and the happy time long past 

Wherein he taught their mysteries to her. 

And to reward her well-conned task, at last 

Gave her the bauble. Bid him not betray 

The wronged queen he loved : but for her sake 

Be father unto me, Ian the. Take 

The gold I gave thee, bid him therewith hire 

What servants I may need ; say the desire 

That fills lona's breast is this, that none 

May know she lives, but thee and he alone. 

Tell him one named lanthe, bringeth word 

Of her, and is of noble birth, and fain 

Would find a shelter in his house. This done. 

Return, I will remain here with the lad 

Meanwhile." Astica trembling stooped and kissed 

The woman's glistening robe, the while her sad 

And wrinkled face, shone with the joy of hope : 

Then looking in the woman's eyes replied, 

** The Gods requite me ill, O beauteous maid ! 

If I do not thy will. She hath not died, 

She whom I loved, and held a tender babe 

Upon this bosom ; noble, wronged queen. 



lONA. 139 

The Gods are just. The Gods are just. But see ! 

Hither the youth is hasting. I will flee 

To do thy bidding. Call him not, I pray, 

The name his mother gave him, lest some ear 

Unkind, hearing the word, shall swift, betray 

The lad to cursed Diophantus. Fear 

Thou him who sitteth on the throne. 

Although I be an aged wrinkled crone, 

I know whereof I speak. Give heed, sweet maid, 

Unto my words. Thy loveliness to thee 

Is dangerous, even as is the name 

Of Hylax to the lad. Be thou afraid 

Of Diophantus' eyes. May he not see 

Thy face." lanthe answered, smiling, 

" Nay, 
I fear him not. Rest thou in peace for me." 
Shading her face, and staff in hand, her way 
Astica took, and to the lad a word 
Of caution spake ere she passed on. While he 
With eager flight, like as a skimming bird 
Poises a moment and then darts along. 
Scarce paused to hear her voice, ere he was gone 
And at the woman's side ; with eyes aflame 
And earnest boyish glance, into her face 
He gazed. Right royally himself he bore, 



140 ION A. 

And she with pride looked on him ; asked what name 

Was his ; whereat he smiled, and turned aside 

His glance. Then boldly gazed again, and cried 

" Call me what name thou wilt, all names were sweet 

If uttered by thy tongue. I have been fleet 

To do thy will. There at the city's gate, 

Without, within, the thronging people wait 

To see the king ride forth : he comes this way 

With all his train. I heard them there relate 

How brave the sight, how on this gala day 

He driveth in the race ; all cased in gold 

His chariot ; his steeds coal black. To hold 

Them back doth task the strongest arm in Greece 

Too heavily ; yet was I told 
He with one hand restrains them. There ! Behold ! 
The crowds rush forth ; they part ; the way is clear ; 
He comes." Then spake the woman. 

" Bide thou here. 
I know thee, lad, for thou art Hylax. Fear 
No harm. Astica trusteth me, and all 
Is well. Henceforth, my brother thee I call, 
Because my heart goes out to thee. Conceal 
Thyself. Stand yonder, on the hither side 
Of my white steeds ; hold them with kindly hand, 
The while I face the king." Then with the pride 



ZONA. 141 

That joys to serve, yet in amaze, his stand 

Beside the steeds with eager haste he took. 

The lovely woman, white as her white robe, 

Stood calm and still. A shade, a troubled look 

Passed her fair face a moment, and was gone. 

Like as a silver cloud veils the fair moon, 

And passing, leaves her brighter, fairer still. 

Thus stood she waiting, by her own strong will 

Held there. Her eyes were eloquent as stars 

That in the skies at even, high and clear, 

Voice forth a melody men strain to hear. 

And may not. Swiftly nearer, and more near, 

The king rode gayly on. Behind his own 

Pressed other chariots. A kingly throne 

Befitted well his royal bearing ; none 

In all his train, so stalwart, tall, and fair. 

Yea ! scarcely in all Greece could one compare 

With Diophantus. Suddenly his eye 

Fell on her, standing there, who white and shy 

Shrank from his glance. A white dove from the sky 

She seemed, who fluttered to be free, to fly, — 

Yet could not break the spell of that fixed look. 

The king drew in his steeds, and all his train 

In breathless silence waited while he spake. 

" Sweet, beauteous maid ! what dost thou here ? I fain 



142 lONA. 

Would hear thee speak. Whence art thou come, and where 
Dost guide thy snow-white steeds? Why art thou here 
Alone? Thy equipage is queenly. None 
Attend thee but this lad? Hast thou no fear 
Thus in thy loveliness to stray alone?" 
The woman, bowing low spake softly. 

" Nay, 
Most goodly king ; for hearing far away 

That here in truth reigned one 
Sent to this people by the Gods, my way 
I took without concern, knowing thy rule 
Must be both wise and just. I only pray 
Thou wilt pass on and leave me. I but wait 
A messenger, whom I sent on before." 
Then Diophantus answered, 

" Nay, but more 
I asked of thee." She said, 

''What is thy right 
To know, I tell thee." Lifting then her head 
She looked on him. " My way lies by the road 
Thou camest. In thy city there I dwell, 
With one named • Leros, whom my heart loves well. 
An aged, wise old man, whose fame hath spread 
For wisdom, even into far-off lands. 
Beside the fountain in the spreading shade. 



lONA. 143 

I sit each day, and at his feet I learn 
The lore of Egypt; of the lights that burn 
Above us men call stars ; how by the will 
Of deities that guide them on through space 
To move, or wheel, or hold them fixed and still. 
They circle or remain ; how thus they rule 
The destinies of men. 
Mild Leros ! He doth school 
The wayward thought and brain ; 
And the wild pulse of youth, his calm words tame 
To slower pace. He fears nor death nor pain 
Who drinks with Leros, where thought dieth not." 
Then answered Diophantus : 

"Sure, thy lot 
Was never cast with earth-born souls. What way 
So e'er thou camest here, thou art supreme 
In all that maketh women fair. What may 
Thy need of knowledge be, I pray thee, more 
Than yonder sweetly blooming wayside-flower. 
That lifts its face, for kisses, to the sun?" 
" Nay ! noble king, wise Leros teacheth me 
The fragrance of a flower is like the mind 
Of woman ; be it ne'er so fair to see. 
If it lack sweetness, it is soon cast by 
And perisheth unloved. Thus with a maid; 



144 lONA. 

Her smiles and outward loveliness allure 
The passing throng a moment; while the pure 
Fair spirit wisdom hath enriched, hath sure 
Delights, rare thoughts her fragrance, that endure 
Beyond the grave, and hold in loving thrall 
All hearts." 

"Thy words commend him well 
Who teacheth thee. For king, as well as maid, 
I hold, should such divine repast be laid. 
I also will betake me to that fount 
Thou lovest. Vision blest, farewell, and take 
To Leros, Diophantus' courtesy; 
But stay, thy name I asked." While thus he spake. 
Stone cold and pale she stood ; at last returned 
The rose tint to her cheeks, the life blood burned 
Its color in her lips, that trembling moved 
To speak the name — "lanthe;" then she turned 
Unto the king, and as his state behooved. 
Bowed low. With supple grasp her idle reins 
She caught, while Diophantus passed. Her veins 
Were filled with fire, that from her heart rushed forth 
In angry floods : and as he onward drove 
He ever backward cast his glance, while she 
Nor turned to look on him, nor yet to see 
The passing throng. Within, her spirit strove 



lONA, 145 

To check the tumult of her thoughts. The king 
But saw her, as a wind-blown flower, that droops, 
And no more lifts its face to greet the sun. 
With flying feet, along the highway, troops 
Of merry youths and maidens passed. As one 
Who dreams, she saw them moving by. At last 
Astica came, hastening her aged steps. 
Then spake she to the lad : 

^' The king hath passed. 

Draw near, I pray of thee. 

Henceforward I will be 
Thy sister dear, and thou shalt dwell with me 
In Leros' house;" — her gentle voice was Igw 
That none might hear, — " for there full well I know 
A welcome waits me. Now thou hast one foot 
Upon the steps that lead to Ion's throne. 
Whereon yon serpent basks. Thou, Ion's son, 
With pride I look on thee. Astica, come, 
Ride now, — thy aged limbs from toil need rest, — 
And tell me how old Leros my behest 
Received." Astica answered, 

*^Well, kind maid, 
For when thy token in my hand he spied. 
His fingers trembling seized it, and he cried, 
* She lives ! lona lives ! and this hath sent 



146 lONA. 

To me, a token. Yesternight I dreamed 

Of her. A white dove from the South flew near, 

And round me, while beneath its wing I seemed 

To see this clasp.' With joy he spake. With fear 

I trembled lest unwittingly some ear 

Catch at his eager words, and straightway give 

My secret to the winds, and bade him guide 

Me to an inner room. There did I hide 

No part of all my story ; and thy will 

Made known to him. With joy he heard, and cried, 

*Go fetch the maid lanthe. Bid her here 

Most welcome be ; ' then hastened forth to fill 

His house with service, as should fitting be 

For such a queenly one as thou ; and still 

He muttered as his way he took, — ' She lives. 

Yea. Well I know she lives. Now shall we see 

Great things transpire, or all my augury 

Is false, that hath ere this been true.' " 

" Now be 
Content, Astica. Henceforth leave to me 
Thy burden, and thy charge, for thou hast borne 
It well, and in thy service true, hast worn 
A heavy heart. She will requite thee well. 
And well she loves thee." Thus lanthe spake, 
Her beauteous face alight ; while her glance fell 



lONA. 147 

With love and tenderness upon the lad, 

Who, fleet as deer, and joyous as a bird. 

Ran leaping by her chariot. No word 

She spake escaped him, and his heart grew sad 

If she but turned her face another way. 

Thus hastening, soon they passed the city gates. 

And near'd the house of Leros, ere the day 

Had reached high noon ; and there, as one who waits 

Impatiently, she saw him stand within 

The heavy shadow of his door, while one 

Came forth to lead away her steeds. The sun, 

Old Leros thought, ne'er shone on one so fair; 

And bowing low before her, thrice he spake 

Her welcome, saying, " For the sake 

Of her who sent thee, tarry long with me." 

"Let youth to hoary age obeisance make," 
Then said lanthe, " I would pray of thee 
(Who come alone, unfriended) let me be 
More than thy guest ; I crave to sit as one 
Who gathered wisdom from thy lips long days 
Ago, — it seemeth now an hundred years. 
And yet, I still am young, such cares and fears 
Have compassed me about, — I have for thee 
A message, I would fain convey apart 
From all." Then answered Leros, 



148 lONA. 

"Come with me. 
I tremble for thy message, and my heart 
Presageth all the import of thy words. 
Beneath thy glorious exterior 
I see my queen. Thy noble soul, my art 
Divines, that looketh not on outward things. 
If thou hadst come to me with hideous wings 
Of bat, or blind and crawling like a mole, 
A craven thing, or from the arching skies 
Dropped here, or in whatever form thy soul 
Encumbered might be, old Leros' eyes 
Would pierce thy covering, and know thee still." 
Then falling at his feet she wept, and cried, 
" Forgive me, father, that I sought to hide 
Myself from thee. I come but to fulfil 
The end of my existence, and to bring 
Just condemnation on the head of one 
Who hath most grievously wronged Ion's son. 
And sitteth basking in ill-gotten power 

Upon the throne. 
But let him stay, there cometh yet an hour 
When he shall feel a wronged woman's hand 
Weigh more than mountains, — heavy as the grief 
lona bore for him. Yea ! let him stand 
A few days longer on the hollow crust 



lONA. 149 

Of lies, which he hath builded 'neath his throne ; 

A Httle longer let him smile, and trust 

To smoothly flowing words. I stand alone 

To execute just vengeance. Father, pray 

Grant me refreshment here, and while I rest, 

(I faint for weariness), if any stay 

Within my city here, who still are true 

To me, go find them; but to my request 

Give heed. Say not, lona lives, but say 

The lad young Hylax lives, and is thy guest. 

How by his aged nurse he hath been reared. 

Who faithful to her charge, hath come to thee. 

Bind all to silence, till the way be cleared 

To place him on the throne, and let there be 

No whisper in the air to reach the king. 

For I would deal with him, alone. This thing 

Thou lookest on, my beauteous form, is all 

My weapon ; I have dearly bought revenge. 

Zona's spirit dieth with the fall 

Of Diophantus. Listen ! I have sold 

Myself, to curse him. Shrink not back. Behold 

My beauty. Is it not divine? Though old 

^nd dim, I see thine eyes do speak its praise. 

Call me no more lona. Let me be 

lanthe, till the fatal hour hath come." 



I^O ION A. 

Then answered Leros, '* I do hold to thee 
Allegiance, yea ! I bow unto thy will 
Even as when thou wert upon the throne. 
Ilerda is no more. She and her child 
Lie in one grave. Thus Hera sendeth ill 

On those who break her laws. 
Nearchus liveth, and retaineth still 
A loyal mind ; and many more there are 
Who bear not kindly the usurper's yoke. 
I know them well, and quickly will invoke 
Their aid. But speak no more of death, O queen ! 
Thy people love thee still, and well I ween. 
They long for thee and for thy gentle rule." 
"By all the Gods, I charge thee, speak no word 
Of me," she cried, " nor let my name be heard : 
For true and noble was the love I gave 
To Diophantus, — he hath cast me by. 
Dost think thy queen returns a suppliant ? Nay ! 
Far rather would I strike, and unknown die, 
And in the memory of my people live, when I 
Reigned serving them, rejoicing thus to serve." 
While thus she spake, a slave brought food and wine ; 
And Leros answered her, " I will not swerve • 

From any task thou givest me ; " and turned 
To do her bidding. In her weariness 



ION A. 151 

She sought her couch, and slept. Her spirit yearned 

For restful sleep, as in the days gone by; 

Sleep that forgetteth, in reality 

Of dreams as sweet as morning hopes. 

What may 
Betide? Even kings fall dreaming of fair maids, 
And smile no more at courtiers' flattery. 
Thus Diophantus, riding forth that day, 
Thought only of lanthe ; of her smile. 
What might it be? or were she aught but grave? 
If being grave, so fair her face, to crave 
A smile, or call one there, indeed were bliss. 
And ere another day had passed, no more 
He cared for kingly sports, — no more for this 
Or that past pleasure ; he would see 
The wondrous one again, or know if she 
in truth abode in Leros' house. Thereto 
A messenger he sent with gifts, to say 
The king would speak with her; that he would view 
Once more her face, and, ere the close of day, 
Would seek her at the house of Leros, there 
To have discourse with her. And when he came 
To her, and saw her stand beside the clear 
Smooth pool that fed the fountain, with the same 
Sweet, moonlight loveliness reflected there 



152 lONA. 

That in the morning had entranced him, fair 
Beyond all power of man to dream of, near 
He drew. No thought beyond the radiance 
Before him had the king, and little knew 
The spirit hidden by those drooping lids; 
The spirit of lona, that anew 

Burned with her wrongs. ^Vith silence that forbids 
Too urgent speech she waited him ; and he 
Half awed, a moment paused, then took her hand, 
And, — like a rose that swinging fair and free 
Bloometh for all, — he held it to his lips. 
Like petals pale and pink, and silken soft, 
That woman's hand. What wonder he would oft 
Repeat the kiss, but that her eyes forbade? 
" Fair one ! why crown with pensive look so sad 
Thy loveliness?" he said. "Hast thou no smile 
To greet thy king? Words that beguile 
The heart from care befit those lips ; not well 
Agree grave thoughts and lovely dames. To wile 
Away slow moving hours, come, let us here 
Beneath this friendly arching tree repose. 
And give time wings with merry converse. Fear 
Me not, I would but see thee smile. Thy still 
Demeanor crieth truce to words, or else 
Thou fearest me." She answered, 



lONA, 153 

" Nay ! it ill 
Befits a woman waywardly 
To chatter; and for smiles, thy fill 
Thou surely hast of them, for none dare frown 
Upon a king, and he who wears a crown 
Need never sue for smiles or praise. Art thou 
In truth my king ? No sovereign have I now ; 
But only to the Gods who reign supreme 

Above all kings, I bow; 
Yet for thy kindly courtesy, O king. 
And for thy gifts, I thank thee, and will here, 
If 'tis thy will, converse with thee, or sing 
And strike my lyre, or call my slaves to bring 
A feast, and spread before thee. Yet I cry 
Do naught to haste the hours, but let time lag, 
For all things pass with time, and thou and I 
Or soon or late, whate'er thy state 
Or mine, to the decree of Fate 
Must bow; and then, though heavily and slow 
Time moved before, too soon will come the end." 
"Thy words are wisdom. Pray thee, I would know 
Hath Leros taught thee thus? nor yet to bow 
Thy beauteous head before thy king? Ah, well ! 
I grant him pardon, since I would not see 
Thee less than proud." She answered. 



154 ION A. 

"It is he 
Hath taught me loyalty. Bethink thee. Here 
Am I a stranger, a sojourner, I ! 
The daughter of a king ! Whom should I fear 
Or bow before? but where my heart leads forth, 
There give I all." 

" Now do I know thee. By 
These words, thou art a woman ; else had I 
Thought thee divine and worshipped thee. Behold 
My city, beautiful and great. Red gold 
Have I ; my palaces are many ; yea. 
My slaves, and soldiers, many as the sands ; 
My ships sail every sea, and with all lands 
I barter for all costly fabrics : all 
I lay before thee. At thy lightest call 
My slaves shall run to serve thee. All is thine ; 
Dwell where thou wilt. Choose for thyself the fine 
Spun gold and linen that my fleet ships bring; 
My rarest gems I give thee ; but thy king 
Must Diophantus be : and for all these. 
He craveth but a smile. That look doth freeze 
My blood. Why start and tremble so? Why turn 
So pale ? Ah ! now 'tis well. The roses bloom 
Once more. Like stars that through the hush and gloom 
Of night bring joy, thine eyes shine on me, clear. 



lONA. 155 

And far above me as the skies. 
Thou hast not told me whence thou camest here, 
Nor what far land hath lost its fairest flower 
In thee." 

"I came from Elis hither. Near 
The vale where fair Artemis wandereth 

At evening. There for seven years 
My spirit dreaming slumbered, till at last 
I wakened at the Gods' command, and fast 
I journeyed. At the feet of Leros now 
I sit to gather wisdom, as of old 
I sat in happy childhood. Now, behold ! 
Mine eyes have looked on Diophantus j bold 
As is the untamed lion; beautiful 
And strong. No man in Greece — thus am I told — 
May stand beside him. Yet withal I see 
He can be gentle ; still my heart cries, ' Hold, 
And grant a little time, or e'er I say 
Great Diophantus is my king.' " 

" I pray 
With all thy learning leave a little space 
Within thy heart for me, and ever trace 
Between the wise words Leros teacheth thee, 
The name of Diophantus. Let me be 
Unto thy fancy, slave, or king; no more 



156 ION A. 

I ask than this, that thou shouldst call me thine." 
She bowed her as a lily bows before 
A sudden wind, that striketh harshly, then 
Lifting her head she cried aloud, 

" Not mine ! 
My king? My slave? I pray thee give me time, 
Nor jest with me. I have no need of gold. 
Or slaves ; and for thy jewels, I wear none." 

"Those pearls upon thy bosom are most rare." 

"Ah, yes ! I have a tale of them. Each one 
Hath meaning for me." 

"Pray thee, then, declare 
To me their meaning." 

"On another day 
That will I do ; but now methinks, aright 
I cannot tell the tale, or thou wilt say 
'Tis dull." 

" O wondrous maid ! How dost thou smite 
My heart ! My each request, however slight. 
Thou dost refuse ; and yet have I the might 
To bend thee to my will, if so I would, 
And make thee feel my power; yet do I choose 
To stoop to thee. Yea ! give thee homage. Lose 



lONA. 157 

My high estate, and be for thee a child 
Suing for smiles and tales." 

"Here hast thou wiled 
An hour away — king as thou art ! Hast thou 
No higher game at which to shoot thy darts 
Than me, a helpless woman? Nay, I trow. 
Turn where thou wilt, are faces fair as mine 
To give thee smiles and glances. What is thine, 
Go take, and leave me spotless as I came. 
I dare thee ! I defy thee ! As for fear, 
I know it not. In peace I journeyed here. 
Nor asked I boon of any, granting none." 

"Thou art capricious as a winter's day. 

Swift turning thus from calm to storm, nor one 

Kind glance hast thou bestowed, so is thy sun 

O'erclouded. Think on me. Most kind and fair 

Have I bespoken thee, who am unused 

To be denied ; yet am I angered not. 

And once again, though all thou hast refused, 

I make request. Bid me again, I pray. 

To thy fair presence." 

"In thy clemency 
Thou art most kingly, nor thy kindly sway 
Will I deny. Hence when thou wilt, return : 



158 ION A. 

But ere thou leavest me, drink of this wine 
My slave hath brought. I pray thee do not spurn 
lanthe's offering. Drink thou, lest no more 
We meet as friends ; " and on the rough, paved floor 
She kneeling, dropped her gaze. Above her head 
She held a cup of gold, filled with the wine, that red 
And glowing tempted him. Then from her hand 
He took the jewelled cup : but ere he raised 
The sparkling flood to quaff, on her he gazed 
A moment unrestrained ; while with quick pain 
His heart smote on his side, as it would fain 
Break from its prison, like a caged wild thing 
That would be free, to seize its own delight, 
Unbidden. Calm and still, and far from him 
As skies at evening, seemed she there ; such sight 
Of gentle loveliness, entrancing, rare 
As wonderful, within his spirit wrought 
A madness, that with haste he drank, and caught 

Her from the floor. 
And with deep indrawn breath 
By all the Gods he swore. 
And by the wine her hand had given him. 

That he would drink no more 
Unless by her bestowed ; and to his heart 
He would have clasped her, — kissed her, — but apart 



lONA. 159 

She shrank from him. Her silken, glistening dress 
She gathered close about her lest by chance 
It touch him as she passed ; nor could he press 
Her longer to remain, nor to enhance 
His suit, could speak one word; within his soul 
Such tumult rose, that he was dumb with strife 
For mastery of himself, and with his whole 
Strong being shaken thus, he let her pass 
And unforbidden leave him. 

Then alone, 
With flashing eyes, and quivering lips, as one 
By inward impulse moved and by the will 
Unguided, swift from room to room she strayed, 
And through the wide and empty halls, until 
Again she stood within the court. Arrayed 
In evening splendor by the dropping sun 
The fountain sparkled, and the dial stayed 
Its shadow at the latest hour of day. 
Alone she paced the stones, her heavy hair 
By trembling fingers torn from its smooth bands 
Fell downward to her feet, golden and fair, 
A veil of woven sunlight, while her hands 
Clasped tightly the white pearls, her smooth neck bare 
And white as they. Her eyes fixed on them ; bright, 
And like the fountain, sparkling, with their load 



l6o lOiVA. 

Of unshed tears. So beautiful a sight 

And yet so sad, hath never mortal seen. 

At last in words her anguish hurried forth. 

" Ah me ! Oh ! heavy heart of mine ! To glean 

One smallest ray of hope, to south or north 

Or to the skies above, I may not turn. 

All nature laugheth with delight and life. 

While I, a dead thing, creep these stones, a curse 

Upon my lips for him whom I — oh ! strife 

Within me cease ! — him whom I loved. Far worse 

Than death is life like this ; lived but to mar 

Another life. Ye Gods ! Have pity. See 

My misery. My feet drag heavily. 

I sink with sorrow. I would haste and flee 

Away from Diophantus ere my curse 

Fall on him ; at my feet I seem to see 

Him writhe, transformed and hideous. Ah me ! 

Because I loved him shall I do this deed? 

A white shrine, wherein none but he before 

Had entered, holy, pure, the heart I gave. 

Hath he defiled it ? Nay ! Though wronged, no more 

Beloved, I cannot curse him thus. . 

I rave. 
Have I not sold my life for vengeance? Save 
This Diophantus, who hath turned away? 



lONA. l6l 

Laughed at my pain? At last hath come his day 
To taste the bitterness of scorn, to sting 
With unrequited love. Yea ! let him play 
A while about the flame ; if he but bring 
His lips to mine, a shrivelled, crawling thing 
He lieth at my feet, despised of men. 
Accursed forever. And for me, what then? 
Oh ! glorious Sun, that dippest now beneath 
The rim of Heaven, shine on me ! unsheath 
A moment longer your bright flaming swords 
Of light, and pierce my being ! Earth ! my words 
Are foolishness to praise thee. Thou dost turn 
Death into life ; to joyous throbbing life. 
Thou sayest to the flower that droopeth, — ' Rise, 
For thou shalt bloom again,' so dost thou prize 
All life, and to the worm that crawls, dost give 
Bright wings to dance in happy life ; and eyes 
Unto the fields, yea ! myriad flowers, that live. 
And smiling lift their faces heavenward. 
While I live not. How doth my spirit long 
To breathe the sweet air, winging like a bird 
To yonder far-off clouds, with joyous song ! 
What is this thought that stirreth in my soul 
With memories sweet? A half-forgotten dream 
It seemeth me, that cometh like a gleam 



l62 lONA. 

Of light into a dungeon. 'Men know not 

The waking of that sleeping they call death.' 

Shall I then waken, live, and feel? My breath 

Gone from me, shall I drink again the sweet 

Soft air? Wise Leros sayeth, as the rose 

Drops all its silken petals at our feet 

And dieth with the day, yet ever grows 

With each recurring season to make glad 

Our hearts, — from life to death, from death to life 

A never-ceasing round, all nature shows, 

Watched over by the Gods, with patient strife 

And endless care, — so we, of nature part. 

Shall slumber for a little like the rose 

By death laid in the dust ; yet shall we start 

Anew with joyous life, and in some land 

We know not whither, will our spirits find 

Fresh joys, akin to these ; no more in blind 

Obedience to dwell, but like the Gods 

Uplifted to delights eternal. Clods 

Are these encumbering bodies that we wear 

And glory in, that heavily, still drag 

Us earthward, chained unto our tombs. 

I bear 
Too great a burden, and no human hand 
May lift one feather's weight. Ye Gods ! I stand 



lONA. 163 

Alone before ye, and my spirit cries 

For life, that hath no life. Hear ye ! naught dies 

On earth, save only I ; for when is done 

That vengeance just, for which I live, no one 

Nor here nor there shall know lona; none 

Shall think on her but as a thing no more. 

In dust this form, beneath the feet 
Of creatures of the earth, shall crumbling meet 
Its kindred soil. So near am I the end. 
The hopeless end of my existence. Send 
Some light to me, for all is dark, and I 

Grope blindly and in pain, for that 
I may not seek. Earth mocks me. Birds that fly 
Sing of glad life, and clap their wings, and cry, 
* Fly with us upward.' Every blossom near. 
Feeling the secret springs of life, hath joy. 
And looks at me askance, as it would fear 
A woman with a curse. The lizard near 
The fountain slips away in fear lest I 
Should crush it with my foot. Poor harmless thing ! 
Love life ; live on ; I would not have thee die. 
Though thou and I live for a kindred doom, 
Thy lot is best. Thou doest no man hurt; 
And happy in each moment, thou hast room 
For kinship with thy kind. Thou knowest naught 



1 64 I ON A, 

Beyond thyself, nor reckonest on aught 
Thou hast not seen ; nor was thy lot by thee 
Self-chosen. 

What ! was then mine own by me 
Desired ? Nay ! by these woeful tears, congealed. 
These rarest of all pearls, which here I hold, 
I chose it not ; for Diophantus sold 
Himself to crimes for power, and forced me thus 
To barter my own soul for vengeance. Now 
The time is near at hand, and on my brow 
I feel the cold drops stand, wrung from within 
By agony and longing. Whence do come 
These hungry thoughts? this thirst for life? For some 
Loved hand to touch me I would give — ah me ! 
I have but worthless gold and misery ; 
I can give nought. Or if I might but see 
My mother's eyes, or in this darkness hear 
My father's voice. In vain they wait for me. 
And I must meet my fate alone, and die. 
Love, Life, have been denied me, and I cry 
In vain. Only that bitter thing, Revenge, 
Is granted me. That will I take ; and thou, 
O Diophantus, who hast been my curse, 
Shalt know its bitterness. I have thee now 
Within my power. The wrong thou didst to me 



lONA. 165 

And to my father's house, shall be avenged. 
For this I die forever. The decree 
Is passed." 

Thus speaking she a moment bent 
Her head, as to a power beyond herself. 
The sun had gone, but far away, he sent 
A softened light upon her, smoothly blent 
With cool, gray, evening shadows. Once again 
She clasped the pearls about her neck, and then 
Upon the pavement kneeling, round the tree 
She twined her two fair arms, and pressed her cheek 
On its rough bark, and softly asked, 

"In thee 
Hast thou a beating thing that would be free, 
Forever struggling with its prison walls? 
If such thou hast, it is thy spirit. Hear 
My words ; and feel my hurrying heart-beats throb 
Against thee ; thus my spirit calls, while near 
Draws death with cold, damp hand to quench its flame 
Forever. Thus unreasoning, did I rob 
Myself of light, and choose blind darkness. Name ! 
I have none. From the hour my work is done, 

lona is no more. 
Drop down your silent dews upon my head. 

Weep with me. Almost from my birth 



1 66 ION A. 

Do I remember thee ; 
Thy great protecting arms above me spread, 
I loved in childhood. While my tasks I said, 
I looked up to thee, wondering at thy strength. 

Hear now my secret ; for at length 
My goal is almost reached, and all shall be 
Avenged. I loved this Diophantus ; yea ! 
With love unquenchable : yet will I smite. 
. Weep with me. Pity me. I will not fight 

With Fate, 
Nor tear myself to lift this weight 
That presseth on me. All too late ! too late 
Hath come repentance of my own rash will. 
I will regird myself with hatred, strike 
With strength that cometh of despair. Alike, — 
To one who liveth not beyond the grave, 

Are love, and hate." 
Thus torn with that which makes humanity 
Most Godlike, she arose, and once more paced 
The court, then sought her chamber. Sleep effaced 
The marks of anguish, and her face but grew 
More beautiful each day, — that swiftly flew 
As all days pass, — and ever came the king, 
Forgetting all delights save one, the joy 
Her presence gave ; and at her feet would sing 



lONA. 167 

Of pleasures past, and say they were but woes, 

Compared with joy which filled his heart at sight 

Of her. At last spake Leros. 

"All is right. 

The nobles ask for Hylax, and the hour 

Is nigh. The king knows naught but thee, 

And thy fair face. When next unto thy bower 

He comes, I will send armed men to seize 

And bear him hence, no longer king, but slave." 

She answered, 

"Let them come, but leave, I crave. 

To me his doom ; nor let them dare draw near 
Until my word is given. Here 

Within this court, on yonder marble seat. 

Alone, I wait the king. Call Hylax; meet 

My nobles ; stay without until I send 

For thee ; then come and bear him forth. The end 
Is here, and I would be alone." 

Then Leros bowed before her, kissed her hand. 
And left her. All that day 
She watched the fountain play 

With dreamy eyes. 
Or lifted toward the skies 
Her face, as she would pray 

With trembling lips ; yet spake not. Far away 



i68 lONA. 

She heard birds sing of summer loves, 
Aud high above her head the circHng doves 

Whirred past her, choosing each his mate. 
Scarce heeding, once she sighed, watched them, and sigheu 
Again. That moment came the king ; as late. 
With hurried step he came, and heard the sigh, 
And spake. 

"Thou, fairer than all blossoms, why 
Art sad? The sunbeams laugh to touch thee. Red 
They kiss thy cheek. For thy fair head 
I bring this lilied crown, of gold 
And silver woven, and rare gems. Behold, 

I had it wrought for thee." She turned. 
All passion laid asleep within her, took 
The bauble in her two white hands, and smiled, 
And said within herself, "He who forsook 
lona's love, tries thus to win the heart 
She gave a beggar. Now is he beguiled 
In turn. 'Tis just; and I will test his love. 
And learn if ever yet remorse hath touched 
His heart." 

"Why lavish gifts on me? Above 
All others Diophantus stands," — she said — 
" A nation at his feet ; upon his head 

A crown. Thy star of destiny. 



lONA. 169 

Points it no higher than to me, 
A woman all to thee unknown?" 
He answered her, "For thee alone 
Lives Diophantus, and his crown 
Is less to him, than from thy lips, one smile. 
Sit near me. Turn to me. Nay ! lift thine eyes 
To meet my own ; and say, / love thee, while 
I drink thy words. Thy voice is music breathed 
Into my soul. Thy touch delight." 
She turned to him a moment, gazing deep 
Into his eyes, as she would read aright 
His inmost thought ; and moved her lips, yet spake 
No word. So near were they to his, to slake 
His thirst for her dear love, he would have placed 
His own upon them ; kissed them ; thus to taste 
Their sweetness ; drawing on him thus the curse 

That slept between them ; but in haste 
She turned away. 
The sun declining sent his level ray 
In mellow light upon them. Looking down 
She saw upon her lap the jewelled crown 
Flash back a tliousand lights. Her two hands clasped 
It listlessly, and dreamily she spake, 
"Dost thou in truth then love me? Do I wake 
To hear again those words that once were sweet 
To me?" 



I/O ION A. 

With sudden rage at this, uprose 
The king, caught from her hands, and at his feet 
Dashed down the costly gift, and trampled it. 

And cried, "What then? Didst thou not say 
In thy soft tones but yesterday 
*I never loved another than thyself? 
And now thou sayest, ' Again I hear these words ? ' 
Who hath dared utter thoughts of love to thee? 
Thus will I trample him. Yea ! pierce with swords 
Of flame his heart, and drive him from the earth." 
She answered, 

" Peace. The words of which I spake 
Were thine alone. Yea ! even from my birth, 
No man hath spoken words of love to me. 

Save only thee. 
Thus art thou of thyself, thy rival. See 
How thou hast crushed the toy, in thy blind rage." 
"Thou callest it a toy?'' he answered her. 

"Thy plaything, yea. Thus saith the sage, 
'Kings play with crowns, and women's hearts,' 
And thus beneath their feet they cast them down 
When they are weary of them, or would have 
Some new delight, or else are angered. Frown 
Thou not. Behold ! how thus thou hast disturbed 

Thy peace, and mine." 



lONA. 171 

"Think no more of it; most divine, 
Most beautiful, I love thee ; nor would pain 
Thy gentle spirit, not for all the crowns 
Or all the jewels the wide world doth hold. 
Speak not again, I pray thee, slightingly 
Of kings, since one would die for thee. Behold 
How great his love for thee, who still doth love 
And worship unrewarded. Thou art cold 
And far from me. Lean to me. Let me feel 
Thy hand touch mine, thy soft breath on my cheek. 

Why dost thou turn away. 
And move thy lips to speak, 
Yet no word say 
Of love, or gentle rapture? I would see 
Thy being thrill, as mine, with the sweet pain 
Of love. Now doth the warm blood mantle all 
Thy face and neck. Is it for love of me 

It comes, and goes. 
Leaving thee pale as mountain snows. 
And far more cold? 
The flaming sun with glory doth efface 
All lesser lights, that shine when he is gone 
With brightness borrowed from his smile ; such place 
Within us holdeth love, that all delights 

Are quenched, or do but sickly shine 



172 lONA. 

When love departs. Such love is mine 
For thee. Those pearls that coldly twine 
About thy neck are charmed, and hold from me 
Thy heart. Unclasp them ! cast them by ! and wear 
Those jewels which the sun hath kissed 
To warmer glow; or else wear none. Too fair 

Art thou for gems, that are not missed 
But by the greater charm revealed 
When they are gone." 

Slowly she raised her arm, 
Unclasped the pearls, and dropped them in her lap. 
Then twined them with her fingers in and out 
And around her slender wrist, and said, 

"What charm 
Is there in woman's tears? Salt drops are they, 
That tremble on an eyelash and then fall 
Unheeded to the earth, and pass away. 

Followed by others of their kind 
In dismal chase. 
I have a tale of these, which I will tell. 
As once thou asked of me, if still thou find 
A wish for it." 

" Dear heart ! as it may please 
Thyself," he cried. " I ever love to hear 
Thy voice — would it might say 'I love thee,' — still, 



ZONA. 173 

If not, tell me the tale, and turn thy face 
That I may look into thine eyes, so clear, 
So wondrous, heavenly, soft, and blue. To chase 
One pleasure with another, pray thee place 
Thy hand on mine. Thus may I have three joys 
In one ; to look upon thee, hear thy voice, 
And feel thy gentle touch with sweet delight 
Thrill all my being." 

Then she looked on him, 
Put forth her hand to him, and spake. 

" Aright 
I know the tale, and yet none told it me ; 
And when I think upon it, it doth seem 
No more reality, but some strange dream 
That came to me, when in charmed sleep I lay 
In fair Artemis' halls. Yet do I know 
'Tis true. There lived a maid upon a hill 
That overlooked the sea. I will not say 
That she was fair, — not all are beautiful. 
Her father was a king ; and she was reared 
Most carefully, and grew most dutiful. 
Around her father's palace of white stone 
Was spread a city, vast, and walled about 
With towered walls, even as is thine own. 

And while she still was young, 



174 ION A. 

Her parents died, and she was left alone 

Queen-regent, till her brothers came of age, 

Who were of tender years ; and songs were sung 

In praise of her : for, though they were bereft 

Of their great warrior-king, the people loved 

Her. In all peaceful arts she led, and left 

The path of war untried ; preferring thus 

The gentler strife which man must wage for bread 

With nature, to the hateful din of dread 

Destroying armies : hence in all her land 

The swords were sheathed, and each man turned his hand 

To gather in the harvests, for the earth 

Brought forth abundantly, and drought and dearth 

And frosts and devastating blasts, and all 

That harmeth man, the Gods withheld. The call 

Of trumpets sounding for the strife was heard 

No more ; but shepherds' pipes and herdsmen's songs 

Made music in the vales, and from the hills 

Re-echoed children's laughter; while the throngs 

Who led the sacrifice, and bore the gay 

Wreathed garlands for the feasts, sang of their queen ; 

And when she walked among them, all her way 

The maidens strewed with flowers. Her gentle mien 

They loved, for she was gracious, and most kind 

To all, and they were dear to her. Their griefs 



lONA. 175 

Were hers, their joys she shared. Peace reigned. The blind, 
The aged and infirm, were housed and fed, 

And women's hearts were glad. 
Suitors she had, and many, from all lands ; 

Princes and noblemen, their hands 
With gifts and treasures laden, seeking thus 
To buy a maiden's heart : but she loved not. 
And sent them whence they came, saying, 

'My lot 
Is joy to me, and till my heart be touched 
To love, I will not wed,' Across the sea 
At last one came, with many goodly ships 
And costly gifts, and smooth words on his lips, 
A king in his own right; and all well pleased 
Her counsellors besought her to appear 
And grant his suit. He, when she would not, seized 
His sword, and swore by it that she should bend 
A^ grass beneath his feet : but not by fear 
Could her proud heart be conquered ; and again 
The Gods were kind, and sent great winds to rend 
And beat his ships, that all were lost. But one 

Of all his host was saved, and he 
Was like a God, so strong and beautiful. 
With clustering, golden locks, most fair to see ; 
Who lay upon the sands as he were dead, 



176 I ON A. 

Still clinging to his lyre, and on his head 

A wreath of myrtle such as poets wear. 

The gentle maiden-queen beheld him there 

While with her maids she paced the sands ; with care 

Had him conveyed into the palace : then 

For many days she nursed him tenderly, 

With her own hands performed each gentle deed 

That gave him back his life, until again 

He knew himself, and looked on her with eyes 

Of love that followed where she moved. 
O king ! and can I tell thee how she loved 
This nameless man, who empty-handed came? 
And how she gave him that which none could buy, 
Nor threats nor fear could wrest from her? How tame 
My words, alas ! with which I tell the tale ! 
She loved him. King, thou knowest but the name 
Of love. Man reacheth out his arms to take, 
And saith ' I love,' while woman giveth all. 
And thus she loved, and bowed her for his sake, 
Put forth her hand and led him to her throne ; 
And he, because she was not fair, beguiled 
Her with smooth words, while looking oft on one 
More beautiful." 

At this up rose the king. 
Paced twice the court, then turned on her and spake, — 



lONA. 177 

"Who told this tale to thee? I pray thee take- 
Those jewels from my sight, nor longer wring 

Thy heart and mine with woeful words." 
She answered him, 

" I slept a charmed sleep. 
Mayhap the tale was told me by the birds 
That circled round the bower wherein I lay. 
For when I woke, this story dwelt within 

My bosom. Now, I pray, 
Bid me not cast these pearls away. 
I love them for the sake of her who gave 
And bade me wear them. See how pure their light. 

A Goddess beautiful and bright 
Bestowed them on me. I could read aright 
Their meaning to thee, if thou wouldst but hear." 
Then breathed the king again, and drawing near 
He stooped and kissed her two white hands, while she 
Spake on. 

"They are the tears of her, the queen 
I told thee of, which falling on charmed ground, 
Remained congealed. Behold how bright the sheen 
Of light which they reflect ! While thus between 
My hands I hold these shining drops, they speak 
To me, — ' Trust no man's words too far, nor seek 
Perfection in the hand that holdeth thine, 



I/S lONA. 

Nor. perfect bliss in human lov^e. As she 

Who wept these tears, most basely was betrayed 

By him she loved, so drink thou not the wine 

Of love, but keep thy spirit stayed 
On calm delights, lest all thy joys be turned 
To ashes, and thine eyes be dimmed 
With tears of gall.'" 
Then spake the king, 

" No more. 
Thy words have burned, 
Each one a tongue of flame, within my heart. 
Those pearls are charmed, I tell thee ; and apart 
They hold thy heart from mine. 

Oh ! most Divine, 
Most beautiful and pure. 
Let me one instant hold thee in mine arms. 

I would but know if sure 
Thou hast a heart, that beateth like mine owti 
Which clamoreth for thee unceasingly. 

These charms 
And worthless tears, cast by, and come to me. 
No love like mine hath ever been. Alarms 
Are needless, since I live but by thy breath. 
Give heed ! look in mine eyes for truth ! for death 
Were sweet to me this moment, if thou wouldst 



ION A. 179 

But let me feel thy throbbing heart, or couldst 
But place thy lips on mine, and give one kiss 
With freight of love. So great the bliss 

To me, of this I ask, 
And yet to thee, so small the task. 
So dear thou art, so near — but lean to me 

And turn thy head 
But half about, and thy two lips, rose red, 
Touch mine." 

With tumult blinded, she nor spake 
Nor moved, until she felt his warm quick breath 
Upon her cheek, as he would even take 
From her the curse, ungiven. 

" To my death " — 
She cried, — " thou urgest me, and to thine own 
Most miserable undoing." 

Then she placed 
Her two hands on his breast, and held him back 
And gazed into his face, and spake. 

"A throne 
Thou hast, O Diophantus ! and a crown. 
And both befit thee well, for thou art strong, 
And beautiful, and mighty. Yea ! the throng 
Hold out their hands to thee with pride, and cry, 
' Great Diophantus is our king, and by 



l8o lOXA. 

The will of Zeus he reigneth.' Oh, thou false ! 
Thou perjured one ! " and with these words she thrust 
Him off, gathering her white robe round her. 

" Trust 
Thy words ? Thou, who most basely hast deceived 
With thy smooth tongue? Thou harborer of lies, 
Who sittest on a throne usurped, believed 
Of many ! By the Gods who see unseen 
Thy crimes are known, nor longer canst thou screen 
Thyself, who, self condemned, dost cower and shrink 
x^way from me, thy lawful wife. Behold ! 
lona speaks to thee, who thus transformed 
And by the Gods upheld, brings vengeance. Drink 
Thou of the cup thyself hast filled. Thou ! bold 
In crimes, yet weak in thine undoing. 

The God of waters rescued me, 
The God of thunders stooped to hear my prayers, 
And Hera on my lips hath placed for thee 
A curse. O Diophantus, whom I loved ! " 

Then bowed the king before her, and his eyes 
A moment covered with his hands, nor moved 
Nor lifted up his head. Then did he rise, 
Hold out his arms to her, and speak. 

" At last ! 



lONA. l8l 

Love ! At last I know the voice that still 

Would haunt me through thy words. Let be what will 

Thy curse. Strike ! Smite ! Spare not ! My light ! My love ! 

1 ask of thee no mercy. To remove 
One jot thou hast in store for me, I ask 
It not, who richly do deserve of thee 

But death ; who have so wronged thee. Yet I crave 

One boon. I pray thee, let me save 
Out of my life, one moment for the pure. 
Sweet rapture of my love for thee. To hold 
Thee in these arms, look in thine eyes, and kiss 
Thy fair white brow, thy neck, thy lips, and call 
Thee once more mine. One little instant fold 

Thine arms around me. Let me feel 
Thee breathe once more the words, ' I love thee,' with 

Thy lips on mine, then deal 
The curse the Gods have sent me." 

Swift she moved. 
Reached out as she would grant his prayer. 
Then suddenly recoiling turned, and where 
The fountain plashed, cast in the pearls, and cried, 

" Away with tears. 
And with remembered anguish ! All the years 
Since first we loved, and thou wert false, I cast 
Them by, with these." Then stooping to the ground 



i82 lONA. 

She folded in her arms the Httle hound 
That ever followed Diophantus' steps, 
And kissed it, crying, " Thus I fling away 
The curse was meant for thee." 

And from ht-r arms 
A serpent gold and green, to shun the light of day, 
And eye of man, with slow and sinuous glide, 
Slipped smoothly down, and crawling, sought to hide 
Itself among the loose and broken stones. 
With horror gazed the king, and loathing. Groans 
Escaped his lips. He cried, 

" Thou sorceress ! " 
But she spake on. 

"The curse hath passed from me. 

Diophantus, whom I loved ! Thy deeds 
Were hateful to me ; but thyself, yea ! thee 

1 could not hate ; and now my spirit bleeds 
In anguish for the little beast, who thus 

Hath borne thy punishment. My lips are free, 
My arms may fold thee now. 
For death draws near. Cold is my brow. 
My hands are chill." 

Then to her side 
Sprang Diophantus, caught 
And held her to his breast, while the rich tide 



lONA. 183 

Of life swept back and flushed her face, and still 
She spake. 

" Give thou to Ion's son 
That thou hast wronged him of, and thou art free 
From other woe." He answered, 

" Nay, all ill 
Is mine, if thou depart. Henceforth, for thee 

I live, alone. 
For what is crown or throne 
To him whom thou hast conquered? Who hath been 
Uplifted to the heights of thy pure love? 
Or looked into thine eyes, and read therein 
Pity divine, all- conquering love, that lives 
Through wrong ? Oh ! beautiful, sweet life, live on ! 
And let my love for thee in part atone 
The wrong I did thee. Oh ! my life, my light ! " 
She answered him, 

" No more forever. Night 
Draws near. The night of death, that hath for me 
No dawn beyond the grave. Thou shalt not see 
lona. Nay ! nor here, nor there. Thou hast 
These moments, with their rapturous pain, while fast 
Thy heart-beats mark their flight, and then to all 
Which thou so close to thy warm breast dost hold. 
Must thou forever bid farewell. No call 



l84 lONA. 

May reach me ; for with sorrow crazed, I sold 
My life for that which I but now flung by. 
For that wherewith to curse thee. O ! my love ! " 
But even while she spake, with her last cry 
Despairing, heard they voices from above 
That nearer, nearer drew, with joyful sound. 
And lo ! beside them Iris stood. Around 
Grouped bright immortals, like to stars. With light 
They filled the court. So wonderful the sight 
The waiting throng without brake in the doors, 
And awed, in silence stood, with bated breath. 
While Iris spake, 

" I bring reprieve from death, 
lona, thou within thy soul dost hold 

Such attributes divine 
As die not, making thee immortal. Thine 
The love that lives through wrongs ; and still, behold ! 
Through sore temptations conquereth, 
Yea, even thine own self. Thy pity strong, 
That overruleth all revenge, doth lead 
Thee stainless to the grave. The throng 
Of glorious beings round thee, wait to bear 
Thy spirit hence, for thus hath Zeus decreed. 

That thou henceforth shalt wear 
A semblance like to ours." 



. lONA. 185 

Then passed 
Unseen lona's spirit, and behold 
Among the white-robed throng appeared one more, 
As fair and bright as they; while fold on fold 
Their ghttering garments wrapped them round, and bore . 
Them slowly upward, as within a cloud 
Of fleecy, floating raiment, and aloud 
Their voices brake in song. The dropping notes 

Filled all the air 
With melody ne'er heard before, that rare, 
And sweet, and wonderful, fled upward, far 
Into the blue of heaven, and died. 
Then Diophantus, heeding not the crowd 
That waited round the door, nor seeing them, 
Laid down his burden beautiful, and bowed 
Above her. Once again he kissed her brow. 

Her lips, her closed eyes, and her cold 
White hands. Then drew his sword, and crying, 

"Now 
And thus let me atone the grievous wrong 
I did thee," leaned on it, and died. The throng 
In haste pressed forward, then in awe drew back. 
None spake. At last they gently bore them forth 
And laid them in the palace, there to wait 

Their burial. 



i86 lOXA. 

Above the grave wherein lona lay, 
Grew three tall iris-flowers. One gold, and one 
A ro}al purple, and the third pure white ; 
And these they car\-ed upon her tomb. 

I heard 
No more. The last rays of the dropping sun 

Were hid behind the western hill ; 
The heavy dews on every grass-blade hung 

Like tears ; the stream was still.